What are the aesthetic components that make you respond to an abstract art print? Do you like art prints that show texture, depth, deep contrasting colour with lots of shapes that has an organised feel? Or do you prefer abstract art prints that are minimal, with a few broad brush lines on a white background. Or perhaps a lot of messy line with a lot of colour?
Abstract art has been encapsulated with so many different styles it’s almost as endless as music itself. Our celebrated artists of the 20th Century, De Kooning, Kandinsky, Motherwell, Pollock, Picasso, Chagall, Matisse, all worked within the bounds of abstraction where references to reality varied with each artist.
Kandinsky, Motherwell and Pollock in their later work had very little reference to realism whereas Matisse, Picasso and Chagall had utilised their abstract work within a realistic framework. How they abstracted their work was to lose form. Their figures, still life, were often without form.
Losing all imagery in a painting as with De Koonings, Motherwell and Rothko’s work, can reduce it to pattern or just non repetitive design and where figures are included that have no form, like Picasso, Chagall and our Australian Artist John Brack, a two dimensional flatness relative to cartoons comes to mind.
So here are some aesthetic descriptions that have been mentioned thus far. Art prints or paintings, can be described as ‘flat’, without depth, without form. Art prints can be described as organised or disorganised.
The use of form in abstraction, brings it closer to reality, so as with realism in nature form is intrinsic to creating a space. Depth of field is a creation from colour perspective and made up of components that have form. Losing form, means you lose light and shade and losing this aesthetic means you are losing a big part of an art prints expressiveness, that being; mood or atmosphere.
Mark Rothko was the abstract extraordinaire, he invented a new way of seeing in abstraction call ‘Colorfield’ or minimal abstraction. His colour was limited to bands of oranges, pinks, green, blue and red. In his later life he preferred to use dark colour, violet, plum, grey, black, and had no interest in colour and its relationship with form. Rothko, also excluded line and most shape in his work. What he was left with was a routine – a routine in colour, size (large) and shape (rectangles) and as his work was so limited in design.
As mentioned in a previous post ‘The Signature‘ – knowledge about the artists life, their personal stories can affect our feelings when we look at their work. And then there is the value of the art. If you were to told that the person who painted the rectangle plum squares was the local tradesperson, none of us would give it much thought. But if you were told the same image sold for 17 million dollars, and it was from someone who lost his entire family in the holocaust and the artist committed suicide, you would stop and look.
Where abstraction has no reference to our world of life, it is termed as non-objective art. There are many, many artists who preferred to paint just using shapes and many artists who go through phases of just using shapes in their work. Most of these artists, rejected creating formatting a space for these shapes. If you look at the I Love Art Print ‘Space and Time‘, this is an example where the artist has chosen to use shape in a created a space. The space is not only in distance but also playing on a vertical and having side by side planes.
A Retrospective Exhibition of Rothko’s work in the National Gallery in London, some years ago now, had the curator creating a low light to view his work. Painting after painting showed similar content, and all very sizable work, that made you feel a little small when close. A number of American Abstraction Expressionist picked up on the idea that big was an effective aesthetic to create impact. Anselm Kiefer a German contemporary artist uses the ‘size’ element with great gusto.
The Curator also stepped away from a somewhat overtaken format of having stark white gallery walls to hang work on. Instead, the walls Rothko’s work hung on were dark and this contributed to the feeling of ‘gloom and darkness’. What your art is place against will have an impact on it. It’s an idea that should be thought of when we showcase our own art work.
Visiting Rothko’s late work just before he committed suicide on barbiturates and self harm to his wrist, could be construed as a reflection of what he was feeling at the time leading up to his death. Suicide is the ultimate existentialist act of accepting that you are nothing and who you are actually has no more meaning, you feel valueless. So when you look at Rothko’s this later work with this in mind, meaningless is exactly what he wanted to express? Reflecting on his value of worth?
The idea that Rothko’s work is non-objective in some ways can be, and other ways can’t be. The person who knows nothing about the artist could be seen as a purist. They are looking at the artwork on its own merit without influence. Whereas the person who knows Rothko, knows the value of his work, knows the Museum of Modern Art in the US, has a dedicated wing for his work, will see things differently. That person will see the work in the context of importance and may well be influenced. Then there is the third person who knows both sides and still say in honesty ‘it does nothing for me’ or ‘it does something for me’. The person that says it does nothing for me is perhaps exactly what Rothko wanted his work to portray, but the emptiness is not the real meaning behind the work.
Marc Chagall – Abstract losing form and becomes flat, like a cartoon
Wilhem DeKooning – Organised but limited in expression. No form and no references to reality reduces the work to an overall pattern
Mark Rothko – Here abstract art becomes reduced to two colours where two rectangles painted over a black background
John Brack – 1955 Collins Street, Melbourne. Inspired by T.S Elliot’s poem – ‘The Wasteland’. Similar theme to Pink Floyd’s ‘ Us and Them’ and the novel by George Orwell ‘Keep The Aspidistra Flying’
You can see Brack’s painting in the National Gallery of Victoria
What has transpired today, is that both representational and abstract painting is made in cognisance of the other, thereby creating work that will use whatever element it needs to make the painting work. So as you can see with Brack’s painting, he chose to make the work monochrome, a symbol of dullness, a symbol of being regimented. Within the facial expressions, you see chiseled frowns mostly, except for the little woman with a rather sweet expression second to the right. When Brack painted this painting, he would have had to think carefully about his composition. He has a foreground, and cleverly placed smaller full length figures, not quite midway in the composition. These figures create a break between the foreground and background. And so too does the tree, abstracted down into dark lines so as not to take away from the rest of the composition. It is interesting to note, that Brack was against Abstract Expressionism, joining a movement called ‘The Antipodeans.’