Abstract Art – How to Understand

On a recent trip to Lisbon, I had a great pleasure of having a conversation with Rita, who besides have introduced me some wonderful port wines, and artworks of students that are very interested in modern art forms and directions. Our conversation spread across many subjects, and it covered not only wine and art, as you can say that both topics include fundamental human qualities like emotions and curiosity and are therefore closely related.

To me, it was very exciting to listen to a young art student because, among other things, we inherent in a tendency to change and develop our opinions and perceptions through the years.

Rita is a beautiful calm and balanced young woman who was quite literate and very well-educated in her opinions and explanations. Certainly, because she taught children in art and thereby, was able to ask a lot of interesting and certain questions.

When we talked about abstract art, she came up with a very simple formula that is worth mentioning here. She was using many others either, but the one below was the most often heard: “My son Jens in 7 years old, and he could do better or at least the same way”. And it’s both correct and yet wrong.

At times, abstract art is relatively naive and technically not so difficult to perform. So to say, it can be imitated along this way. We can make a copy as it were. But what most people will never be able to reproduce is the creation of the original; Even to get the original idea; Even be able to transfer the author’s imagination he took from his soul and put it on the canvas. It could only be the artist, after all, it is he or she that had feelings and thoughts that were released, and at the same time the skills that made it possible. So even though we can copy, the difference between us and the artist is that the author is the only one who creates and we are others who “only” copy.

As an art student in Warsaw, I even remember that one of the most difficult subjects was abstract art. When we were about to work abstractly on canvas during our third year, it seemed straightforward and not difficult at all.

Most of us “fall” right into the trap, as simply 8 lines on a canvas can be either an art or something sloppy, and since we had to explain in detail the color choices, motives to our professor, etc. we realized that we were already wrong with colors choice. Because for how will you intelligently explain that the brush spontaneously and without the larger plan had chosen a little blue spot here and yellow there. So we were going back again and again and again until we began, to think also abstractly. It was quite difficult and although it seemed incredibly simple, the abstract art for many of us was by far the hardest.

When I showed Sebastian’s picture “Baltica III” to my partner’s 11-year-old daughter, her first word was “a nice sunset” and she proceeded to describe the dark sky from the top, the calm water, the beach above the sea and so on and so forth.

The same scenario repeated with “Citronsø”, and although she did not know either titles or ideas behind these artworks, she could easily translate Sebastian’s thoughts and feelings into simple words and short sentences. It was fun though not uncommon, because children still have great developed creativity, as opposed to adults, who are also controlled by the other half of the brain that develops logic, structure, responsibility, etc. They look at the world differently and see themselves more abstractly, because every day they learn and form their own thoughts and stories about what is big and what is small, and not yet filled up with all the responsibilities we, as adults, have and take on us. The older we become, the more things we get stocked and clarified in our heads, that’s why we automatically suppress our creativity and abstract perception, when so many conditions have already been achieved by now we are moving on to something new. Of course, all this is put in general.

Artists are often more “childish” and therefore able to work in art very differently from “normal” adults. They, so to say live in another world and have had the opportunity to stay there since childhood and, in particular, were able to explore this world far deeper than most others were allowed to.

You can ask what should we do with this abstract art if only a few people can understand it? And the question is relevant because art that does not affect us or awakens feelings should not fill our everyday life. Yet, it may have its eligibility. Just as learning a new language can develop us, or reading a book of a new subject for us, or maybe the one that is written in a different way can make our brain work more intensely, so the feeling of the abstract can develop too. We just need to learn to understand it and inquire into what is unclear to us, just as a child would do. We need time to realize what hides behind the artist’s feelings and ideas. Because when we do, a new whole world will open for us. Our understanding will bring us to a new place and definitely what previously was not a matter for us, can now become like something amazing and affect us with feelings we have not had for many years. But we must dare to stop, learn again, try to keep everything else out and just let the imagination flow through our mind and soul.

In conclusion, a little advice from me: When we understand the abstract artwork in front of us, we do not have to doubt our own perception of this feeling, if only it doesn’t fit our taste. Art is so wonderful just like music or similar to that, it affects us a lot differently: Something touches our inner ones in a positive vibe, so other things can be even ignored. All this is about feelings and impressions and once we understand the artwork, it’s up to us to choose or choose it not. Art exists longer when we fall in love with it.

– Beata Piechocka, Gallery BeArte

About the Author:

I am a co-owner of BeArte Gallery, art marketspace based in Denmark. I have an art education and I paint myself. I am also a part-time paint teacher for artists amateurs. Communing with art and contact with the artists is what moves me in life. Without art, my life would be devoid of emotions, higher meanings. I believe that thanks to Art, each of us has a chance to touch an absolute.

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