Updated: Jul 29, 2020
Abstract art is uniquely modern. It is a fundamentally romantic response to modern life - rebellious, individualistic, unconventional, sensitive, irritable. — Robert Motherwell
I Think It’s More Fun
I think that abstract art frees the artist and the viewer from many of the visual limitations and boundary expectations inherent in representational art. In representational art a tree in Yellowstone usually needs to look like a tree in Yellowstone. It can’t look like a Palm Tree. It can’t be quinacridone magenta with pyrrole orange dots on it. Not that anyone would care to paint such a weird tree. I’m just saying there tend to be more rigid boundaries in traditional representational art. Abstract art is not a free for all though, by any means. There are real principles at work in making great abstract art. But it is free of some of the inherent constraints of representational art, which just makes it more fun. That’s why I love abstract art.
Mistakes Become Genius
Make a mistake in representational art and you could be in big trouble. Get the perspective on that prairie house wrong… place the horizon way too high, paint the human form wrong and everyone knows something is not right. It’s a mistake, and you’ll feel compelled to fix it. But not necessarily so in abstract art. A mistake can become, as Bob Ross might say, “a happy accident.” Spill a cup of coffee on your painting and voilà… you have a glaze. Overload your brush and voilà… you have an awesome drip painting. Sometimes the best parts of an abstract painting are born out of the mistakes, the accidents, and the risks you took to be different. Typically such things just aren’t viewed as favorably in the representational realm. That’s why I love abstract art.
Meaning Is Far More Open to Interpretation
All art offers room for meaning, and even leads a viewer to meaning in some ways. But representational art tends to lead more. I think this can limit the viewers interpretation of meaning simply because the painting represents something they recognize and may have already assigned meaning to. It doesn’t have to do that. Nor is that necessarily bad. Maybe it’s what the artist wanted. But in my experience a horse is a horse, and a house is a house. Whatever else they are supposed to be in the painting, everyone tends to start there because that is what they know. But abstract art is by nature less obvious. It tends to force the viewer to look longer and harder to find meaning. In my experience the meaning is not obvious, anymore than the meaning of a songbirds song is. We may find beauty, and harmony, and balance in it… but what it means… that is harder to sort out. But that’s what is so beautiful about it. The meaning you assign to a piece of abstract art can, and is more likely, to be your own meaning as opposed to the artist’s. It’s more personal. That’s why I love abstract art.