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Abstract Art? What does it Mean? A Deep Dive into Non-Representational Expression

The Roots of Abstract Art

Abstract art, a term that frequently stirs curiosity and sometimes bewilderment, stands as a pivotal genre in the history of modern art. This style, emerging in the early 20th century, marked a significant departure from the traditional approach of representing the world in a recognizable form.

It is a popular belief that Wassily Kandinsky, Piet Mondrian, and Kazimir Malevich, were the earliest pioneers of abstract art. However, as so often happens, women have traditionally been ignored in regards to their contribution. I am happy to say that the Sydney exhibition is also showing works by Georgiana Houghton, (1814–84), showing her ‘spirit drawings’ created in the 1860s and ‘70s.

Recently ‘rediscovered’ by art history, Houghton’s outwardly abstract artworks – among the most astonishing images of her time – have now assured her place as one of the most radical of spiritualist artists and a precursor of the abstraction to come.



The other earliest pioneer of abstract art was Hilma of Klint. (1862-1944) She began creating radically abstract paintings in 1906, they were like little anything that had been seen before: bold, colorful, and untethered from any recognizable references to the physical world.

Although they weren't as wildly abstract as Georgiana Houghton's work.





The pioneers of abstract art, including the above women and Wassily Kandinsky, Piet Mondrian, and Kazimir Malevich, dared to challenge the conventional norms by advocating for a form of art that emphasized internal emotional and spiritual expression over realistic depiction.


In fact if you have access to Sydney The NSW Art gallery currently has an exhibition of Kandinsky's works showing until March 10 2024.




The Philosophy Behind Abstraction

At its core, abstract art is not merely a style or a trend; it's a philosophical exploration of the deeper aspects of human experience and perception. It's about conveying emotions, concepts, and sensations without relying on recognizable objects or scenes. This form of art transcends the limitations of language and conventional imagery, offering a more universal mode of communication that speaks directly to the emotions and the subconscious mind.


Forms and Techniques in Abstract Art

Abstract art is characterized by its diversity in form and technique. It ranges from geometric abstraction, as seen in the works of Mondrian, to the more fluid and spontaneous forms of abstract expressionism, exemplified by Jackson Pollock. These artists utilized colors, shapes, and textures to convey their messages, often leaving the interpretation open to the viewer. This ambiguity is not a shortcoming but a fundamental characteristic of abstract art, inviting an interactive viewing experience where personal perception plays a crucial role.


The Emotional and Intellectual Appeal

One of the most captivating aspects of abstract art is its ability to evoke emotions and stimulate intellectual curiosity. Without direct representations, viewers are encouraged to delve deeper into the artwork, exploring their own responses and interpretations. This introspective journey can be profoundly personal and varies greatly from one individual to another, making abstract art a highly subjective experience.


Abstract Art in Contemporary Culture

In contemporary times, abstract art continues to evolve and influence various forms of artistic expression, including digital art and multimedia installations. It has transcended the boundaries of canvas and sculpture, permeating into the realms of design, architecture, and even virtual reality. This adaptability demonstrates the enduring relevance and versatility of abstract art in reflecting the complexities of modern existence.


Abstract art, with its rich history and profound philosophical underpinnings, remains a significant and dynamic component of the art world. Its ability to communicate beyond the literal and tangible makes it a unique and powerful medium for personal and cultural expression. As we continue to navigate through an ever-changing world, the lessons and experiences offered by abstract art become increasingly valuable, encouraging us to look beyond the obvious and appreciate the deeper layers of our existence.

In conclusion, whether you are an art enthusiast, a curious observer, or a creative mind, delving into the realm of abstract art can be a rewarding journey. It offers an opportunity to explore the unseen, feel the unspoken, and think beyond the normal parameters of your own world, providing a window into the depths of the human soul, creativity and perception.


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