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Understanding the Essence of Abstract Art: Emotional Depth and Visual Language

As an artist who often paints more abstractly, I sometimes encounter the critique that abstract work lacks complexity or requires no skill, i.e. "My kid could paint that." Abstract pieces, void of explicit narratives or realistic subjects, sometimes leave viewers feeling disconnected or puzzled.

It's sometimes helpful to think about art like music. Music is inherently abstract. If it were representational, it would attempt to duplicate sounds like birds chirping or trains passing by. Art was mostly representation until the advent of photography, which relieved artists from being the recorders of history.

Music also enjoys wide acceptance as an abstract art. It's the composition of rhythm, melody, harmony, and more that creates music's allure. Similar to enjoying music without understanding musical theory, you can connect with a piece of art by acknowledging how it affects you emotionally: "This piece speaks to me" or "It evokes a sense of calm" or "Something about it makes me feel uncomfortable."

Abstract art employs the same visual language and foundational principles as representational art, including color harmony, composition, depth, scale, balance, movement, unity, variety, and rhythm. Abstract art applies these principles in a manner that transcends literal interpretations, allowing viewers to interpret and experience art on a more emotional and personal level.

Contrary to common belief, you don't need an art degree or extensive knowledge to appreciate abstract art. Studies show that even untrained eyes can discern the intent and thoughtfulness behind artists' creations, dispelling the notion that abstract art is mere child's play.

The true value of abstract art lies in its power to draw us into the artist's world, triggering conversations and igniting our imagination. When we engage with abstract art, we're delving into the artist's psyche, gaining insight into their vision and emotional expression. It's art that can be appreciated simply because it resonates with us.

When faced with abstract art confusion, immerse yourself in the experience. Stand close, step back, observe from different angles. Engage with the textures, colors, and strokes. By opening ourselves to abstract art, we embrace a deeper understanding not only of the artwork but also of ourselves and the artist's creative journey.

Artist with paintbrush laughing. Button that says "Join my newsleter"

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Carolyn Wonders


Modern life with its social, political, and cultural debates leaves us all raw, triggered, and anxious. We are bombarded by rhetoric that is carefully chosen to obscure truth and advance agendas. I see art as a universal language that can transcend that which twists us into parrots of this rhetoric. Living with art you love and seeing through an artist’s eyes can help us see these superficial debates for what they are and get us in touch with what really matters.


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