We’ve all heard and maybe even thought it before: “That painting on the wall of the museum looks like something a toddler could have drawn! What are all those lines doing? Are there any real shapes in this painting? What’s the meaning behind this art, and if there even is any meaning, why is it in this prestigious art museum?”
The fact is, abstract art is one of the most commonly misunderstood art forms. Its goal isn’t to be necessarily accessible or easy to read into. Rather, it often is more about wanting to understand a mental or psychological concept or reaching into the depths of a mental phenomenon known as Synesthesia. It is one of the highest tiers of “High Art,” often reaching to push the boundaries of art as a whole and expand people’s perception of what beauty really is.
Synesthesia is a mental condition in which separate neurological pathways in the brain are slightly interconnected, leading to involuntary and automatic sensory experiences for the people with the condition. For example, when some people see certain letters, they automatically perceive or associate them with certain colors, smells, or tastes. When people experience one input, the brain interprets it both as what it is but adds another sense into the experience. This is a critical aspect for people to understand when understanding abstract art.
Many artists who work on abstract art have synesthesia. You can see this in their artwork, with all the textures, bright colors, and strange shapes that the pictures are full of. For many of these artists, all the aspects of a painting or photograph are not random as they appear to other people, but are actually full of very intense and deep meanings and purposes. The area of a painting that may look like just a splotch to the untrained eye is actually an incredibly important piece of emotional art to the artist.
Often, artists with synesthesia will use careful methods of controlled randomization, but because they can perceive meaning and depth behind very abstract things, they attach and love even the craziest looking things. Their brain’s ability to associate form and beauty with abstractions and randomization is part of the reason why they’re so skilled and appreciated as artists!
Another very important component of abstract art is the fact that many pieces of art are going after understanding mental concepts in a very visual and visceral way. They want to take emotions and feelings that they have behind a specific emotion and create something that will visually represent it in a way that they haven’t found before or perfect an already existing method.
A good artistic metaphor for this aspect of Abstract Art is noise music. Many people can listen to that kind of music and be utterly put off by the fact that it’s entirely undefined, rarely understandable, and sometimes even painful to listen to. However, for the artist, there is a massive amount of meaning and purpose behind the lack of clarity.
People who struggle with mental health often find that these songs and pieces of art that lack definition and clarity are the pieces of art that help them most to feel heard and understood. Sometimes, to be most vulnerable and realistic, art has to be harsh, incomprehensible, and dissonant, because that is sometimes what the emotions and feelings most realistically feel like.
Now that we’ve discussed some of the main reasons why abstract art is created, we can take a look at some excellent examples of beautiful and abstract art that you can buy throughout our Abstract selection in our store on Canvas Cultures! These pieces are created by artists around the world who are skilled and passionate about abstract art and want nothing more than to share the beauty that they find in the midst of chaos, aesthetic pleasure, and emotional vulnerability.
Jazz, by Bart Cooper
This piece is a very beautiful example of abstract art intertwined with more traditional art. You can clearly see a musician playing trumpet in this photo, and so it’s clear that the artist has the concept of music in focus in this painting. By judging the title, it’s very clear that the music genre in perspective is jazz music, one of the most complex and deep genres of music.
Though it might be simple enough to understand at the outset of looking at the artwork, once one looks at all the splotches of color all around the clearer subject within, the abstraction of this piece really starts to come into play. This is a really clear and straightforward representation of what Synesthesia often looks like for the musicians; within the clarity and beauty of the original piece, the extra colors and shapes come into play.
For the creator of this piece, it seems to him that jazz music is very colorful and vibrant music to experience. His use of all different colors shows that when he hears that kind of music, he also sees all the joy and excitement that comes along with it in a very visceral and bright way. In the same way that jazz can seem slightly disjointed and complex to someone who doesn’t fully understand the genre or creation of the music, the artist’s representation of the deep complications in the music is very well represented in this picture. This is an excellent example of synesthetic abstraction at play in the creation of more contemporary pieces of art!
Walking in the Rain, by Leandro Puca
This is another example of an incredible piece of abstract artwork. Again, with this piece, there is a somewhat clear subject in the midst of the artwork, but this time, it is a bit more obscured by the surrounding colors, shapes, and textures. It is a very evocative and emotional piece, especially to people who are looking for something that can truly emotionally connect with a place in their heart.
This piece is titled Walking in the Rain. If one looks at the picture quickly, it’s fairly easy to see that subject and that situation. However, this piece of art is specifically interesting because the closer you get to the painting, the more unclear it gets. The subject of the painting relies on the context of the shapes and colors in the photo, and when that’s taken away, you’re left with some fairly discrete and confusing pieces, which is a sign of truly masterful abstract art.
Part of what makes this painting and canvas so beautiful is the fact that it very viscerally displays the feelings behind what it means to be walking in the rain in a metaphorical way. There is a lack of definition and clarity, just like many people have in the darker moments of their lives. It’s hard to see the more straightforward lines and direction, which is very true of someone who is walking through a harder season of life. Even if the painting and art might be perceived as harsh and undefined, they are an incredibly accurate representation of what those very intense and raw emotions feel like.
Winter, by Bart Cooper
This is another excellent example of abstract art! In just a few shapes, colors, and textures, the viewer of this piece can pretty clearly see how this painting is about winter, as the title suggests. The dark shapes can represent the bare trees of December, the dark blue can be the early onset night sky that overcomes the world during the late months of the year, and the white can clearly seem to represent the snow that falls on many places in the early months of most years.
The artist uses very general and abstract colors and shapes to describe a very simple thing, and through their masterful use of abstract art, they are able to communicate their intents and meanings through pieces that are very undefinably constructed.
The truly beautiful thing about abstract art is that, if we’re being honest, all of the above descriptions of the pieces of art could be entirely different from how you, the reader, perceives them, or how the creator felt about the pieces, or how anyone else views the paintings.
Abstract art is beautiful because it doesn’t actually have a defined purpose! Instead of being locked down into one set of information every time you see an art piece, you can look at it over time and see your own perceptions of it change as you change. Fundamentally, abstract art is functionally more of a mirror into ourselves than it is a description of another object, and that’s why abstract art is one of the most beautiful things in the modern art world.