Understanding Abstract Art

Few weeks back I and my wife were at ‘Grounds for Sculpture,’ a sculpture park and museum close to my place. I must say we thoroughly enjoyed our trip, though I felt for long that some of the artwork there was out of place. The reason being, the ‘Abstract Art’ as those are called weren’t meaningful to me. Why did I pay to see a bunch of circles joined together, I asked of myself at one point? Of course, there were other gorgeous works also, which I could relate with, but I wanted to satisfy my quest to understand the myth behind abstract art.

So I did some digging-up and here’s the explanation:
To understand Abstract Art, we need to have an open mind and be imaginative. It is more of a personal experience than being dictated by the artists or their work…and that is the beauty of it. It’s not that the artists just built up something randomly; they wanted us to derive meaning out of their work without us getting constrained by their thoughts. In other words, their work is meant to be open to our interpretation unlike representational art. We can assign our own meaning and context to it.

Let’s look at the picture below from my trip and try making sense of it. What do we see?


I saw some nice patterns cut out in metal sheets and various sheets cleanly joined together, standing tall in the shape of a flower. Maybe the shape in the front sheet resembles wing of a bird. You might have your own thoughts.

The fact is we are all correct…there is no right or wrong to our answers.

Some of us might still be confused with the picture, by not being able to make any sense out of it. It is perfectly fine since we inevitably try to correlate it with some recognizable objects (like I did), our memories and experiences, and when we are not able to, we think maybe it is not about anything. The truth is abstract art is not “about nothing.” It has all the formal qualities of artwork in form, color, line, texture, composition, pattern and process. Meaning is derived from how these formal qualities are used to create a visual (and/or visceral, cerebral, emotional, etc) experience.

Pablo Picasso’s take on understanding abstract art is:

“Everyone wants to understand art. Why not try to understand the song of a bird?…people who try to explain pictures are usually barking up the wrong tree.”

The point is, Art is an experience, as it speaks to nonverbal parts of our existence…affecting each of us differently. We need to free ourselves and let art take us wherever it has to – life without words, beyond experiences and surpassing definitions. Let it touch our sensations, emotions and memories. Look intently and see colors, forms, materials, surface and how they interact. We need to engage with the painting and let it “speak” to us.

We can also go a step further and read about an artist’s intention behind the artwork, which will add further meaning and value to our individual interpretations.

Only when we are able to understand the true worth of a painting or an art, can we understand why Picasso’s painting recently went for $179.37 million.

P.S. Here are some of the other works from my trip:


Credits: www.art-is-fun.com

95 thoughts on “Understanding Abstract Art

  1. You are so right. Art is personal. This is the exact reason why I write a certain way so that the person who is “interpreting” my words, can do so at their level of understanding. Beautiful post! I truly enjoyed the images. Love, Amy ❤

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Aah!

    My friend! Why did you stir the hornet’s nest? Abstract is what it’s dictionary meaning is. Abstract.

    I just loved the way you explained the concept! Pablo Picasso or Neruda were like… They were the brush and the world an artist. The mind is world’s. Hand, Picasso ka.

    It’s a giant concept. Now, as the painting was never conceived by Picasso, how can he explain it? Now, the world painted it, but like a multi cellular organism, world kept changing. Brush was always constant.

    Picasso never was able to explain his paintings. Neither was Neruda, nor Van Gogh. So they all died in poverty. Just because, they were brushes. We were the hands.

    Abhi samajhta hai. Kya the wo. Why? Because, some of us are enlightened enough to understand abstract. Baki to waise bhi internet pe se download karte!

    Thanks a lot! For posting this article! Always knew that you are a master. That’s why I subscribed!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. After my analysis for this article, i felt like Pablo, Van and such others left a great legacy for us to continue with. I mean paintings and art are so pleasing to the eyes, they take us to another world…a world free of any materialistic touches, where we can just be ourselves!

      Imagine how would it be if there was no music…i guess life would not be so livable.

      As always, happy to have you here 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Abstract art is meant to elicit some visceral, cerebral, emotional reaction ! I haven’t yet come across such a well defined way to describe Abstract art. Though I like to see abstract art forms, but I generally took them for some lines drawn that very few other than the artist understand. The reactions probably explain why great artists come up with abstract forms.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. To me also they were just random drawings with great touches by the artist. But no, artists are influenced by their surroundings and many other factors, which shapes their work…in order for us to appreciate the same, there is much more to do than just see the painting visually.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Abstract again purely depends on the one who perceives it.I say,more than an open mind,one need an artistic mind to understand it.And cannot be accepted by great artists sometimes 🙂
    I believe abstract art forms are better not put to public display 😉


  5. Abstract art is like music… It either moves you or it doesn’t it. I should know, I’ve been making it for over 30 years and I’ve heard every reaction you can imagine. I love the Picasso quote, btw. Good to find you, Alok.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. ok, well i m into art or paintings , but as far as i can understand is, its like a writeup or a poem which can be interpreted in many ways by different readers. That poem would be abstract . Like a song ” lagi tujhse mann ki lagan ” A priest would take it for God, a lover would take it for her girl. So differenty readers, different perpective , different meaning of the poem.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s a great analogy. Thank you for adding.

      I think it also pleases everybody rather than forcing artists’ point of view…since we know what we like, we play around with our thinking.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I love abstract art and other forms. But abstract allows more of your own interpretation. I saw a flower when I first viewed the photo. But then I also saw a vase and a place to escape…

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Great quote from Picasso there! Though I enjoy many types of art somehow I am not so much into that type of modern art which tries to be abstract simply for abstraction sake. But I agree in the final analysis, art is about individual experience. Looks like you had quite a trip!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. After my trip, i am somehow liking abstract art, though i have to put some time into understanding it. I agree with you, but i guess prominent artists put a lot of thought into their abstract work as well.

      It was indeed a geat experience. Thank you!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Wow! You had an awesome trip 🙂 Yes understanding abstract art is something which requires a deep sense of imagination and open mindedness is the key. There are lot many things out there which are craving for the day we would understand them but they remain silent and wait 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Thanks for shedding light on the matter. I never took abstract art seriously. But a visit to the Nature Art Museum in Shantiniketan opened my eyes. And your article explains it so well

    Liked by 1 person

  11. This is one of the best blog post in the day so far Alok. Great art work and how beautifully you described. Loved it :)The various sculptures defines different moods of life. I like the concept and wish to have one such place in my city as well where I can go and spend some relaxing time.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Initially I too wondered who pays billions of dollars for a painting like ‘Scream’ or ‘Rothko’s’. But soon I realized that art is a fingerprint… a personal touch, some people are able to connect with what the artist have thought of while curating it… and some people don’t. And if I fell in don’t(s) then all I do is appreciate the effort and move on 🙂 Thanks Alok for sharing such a deep thought.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. “Art in the eye of the artist makes more sense than life’s rich variety of all that has inspired it
    And within the vision of the creator such works are simple beyond the art of breathing
    Even if for everyone else it makes no friggin sense!”

    Did an image of a geometric figure on the edge of a cliff, photo shop and all artistic style
    For me it has a meaning of been frozen in inaction, when faced with possible fatal events, the women in the art shop when handing it to me called it “the lemming picture”!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Your post exemplifies what abstract art is all about… a point of discussion… even if it’s just a discussion with our own self… it makes us think even when there is no explanation… which is why abstract art in all its forms is my favorite kind of art.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Just to say in simple words beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder. However, artists do things like painting naked figures of people, I think that is crossing the limit, infact there is a picture here like that. Anyway, cheers to creative freedom.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Wow….I never thought the concept of ‘Abstract art’ could be so beautifully yet simply communicated. I totally agree with you about the fact that most people like us are not very attracted to this concept of something that doesn’t comply with out present or past experiences or memories , and tend to think these works were created without much effort like a toddler with a brush in his hand.
    But as you say this is what it was meant to do , to not impress upon us the artist’s interpretation , rather inspire us to have our own point of view and interpretation about the subject – a painting, a sculpture or even poetry. The baseline is it evokes our senses and forces us to think !
    Great post…

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Art is totally an experience which has the power to take us to a completely different world which we may have never even dreamt off. Some nice art forms there 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  18. I will certainly never look at abstract art the same way again after reading this post. I always found it so…abstract 🙂 I will now assign my own meaning to such forms of art. Thanks for sharing and for coming over to my blog.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Waiting for the day when my pix shall be sellable in millions 😛
    “people who try to explain pictures are usually barking up the wrong tree” – so true…
    BTW, you’re lucky to witness those beautiful pieces 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  20. The second picture – sculpture – is a replica of a painting by Manet called The Luncheon on the Grass. I know what you mean by abstract art – what those circles mean?? And some art works make you wonder, wth is that?! Hahaha…

    Liked by 1 person

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