Tuesday, April 5, 2011

In Praise of Abstraction

Metrimorphic III -  c Lynda Lehmann 

If we are going to discuss the validation of art by virtue of "skill" or "meaning," we have to give abstraction a fair shake. To my way of thinking, abstract art is more interesting (if not more beautiful) than realism, because it presents a visual experience that has no precedent in reality. It presents something totally new and is its own reality. Realism refers to a single point in time and space even when it is arresting, compelling and speaks to universals.
But abstraction can be richly layered and full of ambiguity and mystery that yields fresh nuances of visual experience with each viewing. To me, abstract art comprises a rich, multi-dimensional experience because it doesn't cater to the constraints of time and place. The new visual experience it presents is of value in and of itself, and does not require a literal meaning in the usual sense. As a matter of fact, it may call on the viewer to be a more active participant in the viewing, because it reaches beyond our usual scope of perception and lends itself to the subjective reality of each viewer. Art does not need to refer to political or religious ideologies, or even the continuum of human emotions and experience, to garner its meaning. It simply is, and therein lies its meaning. And to me, abstraction is very compelling in its visual (and emotional) richness.
As for the "skills" part of the equation, Kandinsky (among others) manifested a high level of both imagination and skill that many realists don't possess. I wanted to post some of his images to illustrate the point of this post but because of copyright issues, had to use one of my own, instead.  Compelling abstraction is difficult to achieve, often involving both concept and great discipline that match or exceed many realist paintings.  

NOTE: I first wrote this as a response to a discussion on Robert Genn's Painter's Keys site.  You can read his original letter and the responses, including mine, here.  While you'e there, you might want to sign up for Robert's thought-provoking newsletter.  
All images and text on this blog are copyrighted material, and may be used only with written permission, except where syndication rights have been granted. All other rights reserved. Please visit my primary site at http://www.lyndalehmann.com/gallery if you would like to see my acrylic paintings and more of my photography and digital art. I hope you enjoyed your visit to my blog!


  1. I agree, Linda! Art is a tribute to our imaginative nature, and abstraction is a wonderful tool to tap that nature.

  2. nothingprofound - And your wonderful aphorisms are a tribute to our imaginative nature! :)

  3. No doubt, abstract art is a more powerful and interesting means of expression than the realist one.

    Abstract painting enables the artist to use his unlimited imagination rather than the limited reality as a model. It allows him to focus on the essence of an object rather than its form or appearance.

    Your above painting, Metrimorphic 3, is mesmerizing, Lynda!

  4. DUTA - I agree that abstract goes beyond appearances, hopefully into something new. I thank you for your kind words. I'd rather have put a Kandinsky there, but my meager offering will have to serve the purpose!

  5. Well said, Lynda. Abstract art is a new creation, not derivative. It lets me see into the artist's head in ways realistic art do not.

    "Metrimorphic III" is gorgeous. I see eyes in the city.

  6. RUTH - Speaking of seeing into the artist's head, I just loved your poem in your last post. You are SO talented. Your work inspires me. :)

  7. Congratulations for this great abstraction and for your accurate and reasonable words in defense of abstract lart. A hug.

  8. This is so beautiful. I've never been fond of some abstracts but yours ....ahhh, i could sit back with a glass of wine and ponder it for awhile. Gorgeous.

  9. Leovi - I'm glad my words resonate with you. I know you are as fascinated by abstract work as I am. I think our lives would be boring without it!

  10. Snady - That is quite a compliment. Thank you for your kind words!

  11. Lynda well said. I enjoy abstract myself, and especially yours. You have such an amazing eye, or skill in that area. Abstract is very creative, and goes both ways - the creator shows it by creating, and the observer always have something to imagine about.

    Lynda hope all is well. I got my 7D few weeks ago, and it is amazing piece of equipment, yet lot to learn. It is heavier, but when I am motivated I don't feel a thing, except when I get home, lol.

    Anna :)

  12. Love the work and the post. Hope you are well!

  13. I never liked abstract until I started working with fractals 6,7 some years ago. It opened up a whole new world of art. Now I can study pieces like yours or Leovi's and be completely drawn into the painting or photograph. And maybe someday I'll even be able to paint them...
    I love the colours, the many shapes and the feelings it gives me when viewing the piece above. This is indeed to my mind one of your better abstracts Lynda. It really resonates deep within.

  14. ANNA - I'm surprised to come here tonight and see that the long response I wrote to you the other day, is not here! I must not have clicked on "post comment." Ooh, sorry.

    My D-SLR is heavy too. That's why I bought the Nikon mini-point-and-shoot, for those long walks when I can't bear to carry my larger SONY. And as you point out, when you get home you really feel it. Ditto!

  15. tangled stitch - I'm fine, thanks. And thanks for stopping by. Hope you are enjoying the pleasant change in the weather! You won't want to be doing as much stitching in the house now, no doubt. ;)

  16. Hey Lynda,

    I like abastract art (as you know), however I'd say that each style has its own place and context. All forms of art are beautiful because they each represent a different language.

    To say that one is more beautiful than another is like saying that one language is more beautiful than another; and frankly Portuguese is as beautiful as English, as Spanish, Deutsch, Greek, Hebrew etc. :D

    Art is an expression of Life, and Life is gorgeous no matter in which way it is expressed.

    Have a graceful weekend, my dear friend!


  17. Janice - I'm glad it resonates with you. I'm drawn to Leovi's art, too, as I can lose myself in contemplating it.

    I know you do fractals, but have you also tried drawing and painting, to date?

  18. MAX - As in all things, humans must both compete and construct heirarchies, to assure themselves of their particular "place" in things. I agree with you that life is beautiful and precious, and there should be room for all things (constructive) and for everyone. It's too bad that humans cannot seem to get away from vying for position.... ;)

  19. A lot of people say they don't "get" abstract art. Personally I love it. I love the freedom of seeing what I see (or having my viewers have that opportunity.) Love the colors in the piece in this post--very nice against the black background!
    BTW, sorry for my recent absence. This is the busy season for my visual arts business & I've been taking full advantage!

  20. Very nice blog and i will bookmark this blog!!

    On the other hand if u ever wish to read my blog, on the left side u can click on translation for english and your page will be ajdjusted:) i must mention that lol


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