Have you ever wondered how to interpret abstract art? In my humble opinion, if an abstract painting is compelling, it will have something that retains your attention, draws you in, keeps you looking and generates an emotional and/or intellectual response.
Before I continue, I want to stop and define what I mean by abstract art. I am referring to two-dimensional paintings that do not contain any recognizable subject. To be more accurate, I am discussing about what is called non-objective art. Non-objective art is clunky to say and write, so bear with me as I use the easier phrase of ‘abstract art.’ My apologies if I offend anyone.
Some Questions You Could Ask Yourself When You Interpret Abstract Art:
Whether you like abstract art or not, consider theses questions as a place to start when you are viewing an abstract painting
- Am I trying to figure out what it looks like or represents rather than allowing something to emerge from what has been painted?
- What attracted me to the painting?
- What are the elements (lines, shapes, sizes, lights & darks), colors, and textures of the painting? In other words, consciously identify these elements. How am I responding to them?
- What emotions does the painting evoke?
- What thoughts does the painting evoke?
- Where does my imagination go?
- What design principles – such as the balance, rhythm, contrast, unity, repetition, harmony – do I like or not like?
- How does the title influence what I see or feel?
- Have I spent enough time to make a connection with the work?
What additional questions might you add to this list? And, which of these questions might you ask yourself when looking at any style of painting, be it realism, impressionism, surrealism, etc?
Do you think asking yourself these questions will facilitate your understanding of abstract art? I know I find them helpful.
These questions help me understand more about myself and my aesthetic. The answers deepen my understanding of what I like (or respond to) and don’t like. For example, I know that I personally do not care for abstract paintings that are shallow and just have a bunch of marks on the canvas and seem disconnected. I like mystery and depth; not everyone does. Consequently, this is also my intention when I paint, as you can see in my painting “An Interior Quest.”
I know I need to be asking myself these questions while I am painting:
- Do I simply want my abstract painting to be beautiful/colorful?
- Do I intend this abstract painting to convey something specific?
- Do I want people to extract their own meaning from it?
- How do the elements interact? Is this significant?
- Do I want to guide your interpretation with my choice of title?
- Do I want to write a story to accompany the painting explaining how I created it and my thoughts about it?
- What role does color play?
We paint to express ourselves and communicate visually. However, sometimes we need words and/or questions, such as the ones I have listed, to facilitate our creativity. Will the questions I have posted be helpful to you when you next interpret abstract art?
Personal Story and Confession: When I started painting 25+ years ago, I did not like abstract art — it did not resonate with me. The thought of ever painting abstraction in my early years, was something I could not imagine! Now it is my preferred style of painting. Who knew? LOL! I have learned that this evolution is not unusual. For fun, below is an example of one my realistic watercolor paintings which was created in 1999, A Golden Gathering, which is a part of my series, “No Time for Idle Hands.”
How has your style evolved over the years? Or are you thinking of changing your style? Please write your experience in the comments section.
If you enjoyed this post, please share it using the buttons below.