Talking about abstract art

How do you respond when someone looks at a piece of abstract art and says, ‘But what is it?’ Or ‘What’s it meant to be?’ Or even, ‘I don’t understand it’?  I’m sure we’ve all been there.

Talking about Abstract art 2

I had this conversation last week after having a second day of working with Glenda Charles. I’m really enjoying creating more abstract art. I  am allowing the creative process to make its own direction and pace as I continue to explore images from my environment.

Talking about Abstract art

When I showed my, normally very supportive, husband what I had been working on, he responded with the ‘I don’t understand it.’ version above.  I spent a day or two thinking about how to talk to him about abstract art in a way that would help him relate to it.

Wikipedia’s explanation is that uses a visual language of shape, form, colour and line to create a composition which may exist with a degree of independence from visual references in the world. I didn’t think that would entirely help him. While it is clearly correct, its also obvious and doesn’t really speak about the emotional aspects.

Explaining abstract art

He has always loved music. That was the connection I needed. I explained that I see figurative art as being like music with lyrics. The lyrics make it clear what the song is about. You can tell what the composer was thinking when they created the piece. However, quite often, with instrumental work, the same is not the case. Instrumental music, either classical or contemporary is like abstract art to my mind. If it’s well written, you can tell what the composer was feeling and what they want the audience to feel. But the exact story behind the music is only fully known by the composer.

Is it good instrumental music? There are experts who can pronounce judgement on that. But for the average listener, it’s more subjective. You either like the music or you don’t. The rhythms and harmonies appeal to you, or they don’t. If find yourself listening to a piece of instrumental music more than once, that’s rather like seeing a piece of abstract art that draws you back for another look.

He got it. Now we can have some conversations in which we are talking about abstract art.

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