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I started experimenting with abstract art a few weeks ago; a handful of hours, which I experienced as an aimless therapy: I do not know what I am supposed to heal, and I do not rely on a prescribed formula. The basic idea was to approach the new without the pressure of performance, purpose or judgement: no grades and no pretence of arriving at a perfect ending.
I say this as someone who often suffers the confrontation with the blank sheet of paper, the confrontation with the audience and, even more so, the confrontation with his own perfectionist and performing self. This time I decided to follow the hand rather than the brain; the aim is to bypass the conscious and the rationality that goes with it: to distract the guardian so as to access the magical realm of what we are without being conscious of it.
In this sense, abstract art is a field of freedom, a space of art that has no pretense of realism, of coincidence between form and pattern. No mirrored enclosure that makes us feel constantly observed and judged. This should be the aim. This practice allows the unconscious to slowly surface, to slowly take the place of consciousness and release creatures and visions; it helps to vomit out of us the elements accumulated over the years by the body, mind and spirit. All the sounds heard and images seen and thought, all the segments of our experience, in abstract art are dismembered into distinct components, into the cells of our being, material and immaterial, transposed into painting.
It is as if we could release impulses, not perfectly identifiable in a form, which are stratified within us and which, gesture after gesture, manifest themselves.
From linearity to decomposition
I can honestly say that I have never fully appreciated abstract art until now when I was able to experience it myself; probably, advancing years help access this kind of language.
Art, for me, has always been the political, creative and even salvific medium of existence. Still, I interpreted it in a way that was perhaps too rational and linear because I was anchored in such an action-consequence view of life. I had not yet experienced the mysteries, the silences, the voids, the misunderstandings that the years, the relationships with each other, with ourselves, and the clash with the world bring us through.
Perhaps abstract art seemed trivial, pretentious and easy to me; certainly less interesting than others
because it seemed to me that it did not have much to say other than the hard and pure aesthetics I
associated at the time with appearance and appearances.
I believed that abstract artists were less able to express something, that they lacked depth or substance to communicate messages, and perhaps lacked courage. I was more idealistic and perhaps even braver and believed I could see and understand directly.
Now I realise that abstract art is probably done more for oneself than for the world, like a therapy that
helps one to empty oneself of excess accumulations. I suspect that world-renowned artists began
abstracting for the sense of liberation and the benefits they drew from this practice.
History of Abstract Art
Abstract art has its roots in the artistic avant-gardes of the 20th century, particularly in the movement of abstractionism, which sought to free art from the constraints of figurative representation. Artists such as Vasily Kandinsky and Kazimir Malevič argued that painting and sculpture should be independent of visible reality and should communicate the inner world of emotions, feelings and ideas. Through the use of geometric shapes, spontaneous gestures and vibrant colours, abstract artists seek to evoke primal emotions, moods or complex concepts that may elude words or figurative images.
Abstract art represented a turning point in the evolution of modern art and also challenged our way of
perceiving reality and our cognitive limitations, asking us to embrace ambiguity, uncertainty and
imperfection. In this context, art becomes a means to explore and communicate the unconscious, the transcendent and the ineffable and invites us to look beyond the surface of things to investigate the multiple dimensions of reality.
Vasily Kandinsky is often regarded as the father of abstract art, although history later revealed in 1986 that the first true abstract artist was Hilma af Klimt, about whom I have reported here.
Kandinsky theorised on painting as purely emotional and spiritual expression, experimenting with the
translation of sound into geometric shapes and vivid colours. Emotions become a fundamental part of the artistic experience.
Kazimir Malevič is famous for introducing the Suprematism movement, which sought to represent ‘pure feeling’ through abstract geometric forms to reduce art to its essential form.
Piet Mondrian developed the Neo-Plasticist movement. His works focused on the use of horizontal and
vertical lines, combining primary colours and elementary geometric shapes to represent universal harmony.
Jackson Pollock is famous for his ‘dripping’ style. He used to drip, splash and throw colour onto the canvas spontaneously, creating works that represented energy and movement.
Mark Rothko is known for his large canvases characterised by intense and vibrant colour fields. His works sought to evoke deep and spiritual emotions, inviting the viewer to immerse themselves in the emotional dimensions of the artistic experience.
Joan Miró developed a unique and recognisable style distinguished by abstract figures and symbols. His works combine organic lines, geometric shapes and vivid colours to create a personal artistic language that expresses his inner world and his connection to the subconscious.
The age to understand the abstract
The older you get, the more you appreciate abstract art because the older you get, the more you get used to coming to terms with uncertainty, with the ambiguity of life, with the mysteries of the cosmos: drawing abstract art makes me believe that I can reveal those mysteries on canvas, that I can express the invisibleand the incomprehensible, that part of me that I do not know and will probably never understand. Although I can pull those bits out of me, they remain an untranslatable vocabulary.
What is yellow to me?
And the circle? And the stain? Why were they in me and where did they come from?
But is it really so important to know?
Important things to know
The older one grows, the more acceptable and tolerable all this becomes: there are nuances of things and people that we can not understand or discover, accepting that the answers social models, history or religion offer us are, in any case, partial and fundamentally uncertain.
The more I live, the more I realise I know nothing about life and probably about myself because the action-consequence model is too simplistic to really understand who I am and where I come from. There are so many factors and variables in time, in events, in living beings, and in the relationships between things that being able to trace exactly where I come from will always be a partial analysis. And I believe this applies to everything.
There comes a time in life when this loses its importance, and one stops fighting against oneself; one begins to permit oneself to simply be what one is, red, green, square or dot. One accepts imperfection, anger, lack and deficiency; one accepts resentment, just as, on the other hand, one accepts the crooked nose or the shrill voice, the X-shaped knees and the huge mole on the face.
These are things that we either accept or change because they are all part of us. Even if broken and analysed, even if made into shapes and colours, they are our baggage and burden. They are our travelling companions.
A practice good for the artist
This is why I believe that abstract art is practised for the benefit of the artist, and composition follows the needs of the sensitive person who creates by moving freely in space.
What we find on the canvas and observe is the expression of the perceptual field of someone we do not know, indeed of a living mystery in which the X, Y, and Z axes cannot be traced.
We are electric batteries that accumulate sparks; we are containers of life.
If we can return it in a disjointed but united and vibrant way through the tools of art, we can filter and recompose thoughts in a salvific way. Abstract art is a good way to put stress outside.
That is why the more we grow, the more we learn to appreciate it.