Abstract & Essence

Art Matters: This art is of the essence

By Janet Sellers


An art form that I get asked about often is abstract art. Abstract art these days is a broad field that people seem to love or despise. In the early years, the abstract artists and thereby the collectors felt they were taking the imagination of the viewer to another level, a non-physical realm of thinking and feeling. It was associated with the term “non-representational,” but in its deepest sense today, the highly charged, emotional response to it confirms that it represents a lot to the viewers.

The dictionary explains the terms thus: Abstract: n. something that concentrates in itself the essential qualities of anything more extensive or more general, or of several things; essence.

The irony for many people is that they think they do not understand the abstraction, or the essence, of the art, but they have a strong response to a piece. This is actually the deciding factor in its aesthetic value, so at some level, they do understand it. I think this is a triumph for the viewer and the arts, to succeed in relating to creative thinking and be so aware of it as to question and ponder these visual outcomes. We don’t have to like it for it to be good, and thank heavens we don’t have to live with art just because it is “good.”

The child in all of us observes our natural world without words, but with great inner response. The shapes of clouds in the sky, for example, make ongoing visual cues to us. A sunset is completely abstract in terms of its composition, light, color, and expanse, yet we feel very connected to it, feel and enjoy its beauty, as well as get a great satisfaction from the visual experience.

When the artwork is in a museum or business or home, long after the artist has moved on to creating other works, the artwork itself continues to offer its message to viewers.

What separates great art from the ordinary is that great art continues to inspire us and ignite our imagination, view after view.

As humans, we have a set pattern of visual experience thanks to our eyes and nervous system working together to report to our minds what they see. It is up to our mind to connect meaning to the experience or dismiss the visual as unimportant for further attention.



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