Prehistoric cultures used markings on objects such as rocks and pottery as symbols to represent their spiritual beliefs, as well as to decorate their objects. Many of these simple forms were independent of references seen in nature, i.e. the world’s first abstract art.
Abstract form is manipulation of natural line, shape and color divorced from reality, either partially or completely. Abstract painting can be considerably more difficult and more sophisticated than paintings of natural objects.
Abstract art can be considered ugly or simple. There is a high level of sophistication in the use of color and form to bring forth a harmonious abstract work, however. Abstract paintings take the viewer on a journey beyond the reality of the world and into reality as seen by the artist.
At the end of the 19th Century, many artists moved from realistic representation and entered into various forms of abstraction. Abstract forms that retained appearances of realism included impressionism and pointillism. At the turn of the 20th Century, abstraction entered a period of early modernism that separated itself from impressionistic work.
Fauvism was characterized by strident color and non-realist line and practiced by Matisse and many others. Picasso, Braque and others simultaneously practiced cubism, which represented both seen, and unseen views of the same object juxtaposed in a variety of shapes. Abstract art has been used in paintings to make social statements that represented artists’ views about war, political order and poverty, for example. One of the best known, and considered by many to be the most powerful among anti-war paintings is “Guernica”, created by Picasso to protest bombing of the Basques in the Spanish civil war.
Several other abstract variations merged in an effort to represent the true nature of matter and also to create visual harmony. Post Modernism followed with even further abstraction, eventually leading to development of performance art and installations using videography and other media.
A present day abstract artist, Dennis Towers, produced the two paintings below. In the first painting, subtle variations in color and shape create ambiguity by suggesting several dimensions present in the piece. Repetition of shapes hold a painting together but it is difficult to introduce numerous multiples without seeming monotonous, yet this is not the case here. The variations in color create levels of depth that transport the viewer on a voyage into the world of green.
In his second painting, contrast between the colors of two similar shapes in strength, density and tonal value create a certain mystique.
Towers says this about his work “one can explore the line, form and shapes used to build the abstract image and marry these with the properties of the medium – hue, value and density to achieve a personal aesthetic interpretation. In this way it is my hope that the viewer can experience the visual and emotional melody of the piece.” More artwork by Towers can be accessed at: https://www.facebook.com/dennis.towers.art.
As you can see, abstract paintings may be absorbing if one is willing to take the time to try and appreciate the work for what it attempts to accomplish. Artists continue to create exceptional paintings that range between pure realism and extreme abstraction and there is beauty to be found in all of these art forms.
Edited by Donna M. Schweibert.