The Secret to Understanding Abstract Art

Let It Go ©Sally Evans Acrylic 30″ x 40″

Have you ever stood in front of a painting and said, “What is it – I just don’t get it.”?

Maybe you even felt a bit uncomfortable because you didn’t understand it.

Several years ago, one of my abstract pieces from art school was in a gallery show.

It was reviewed by an art critic and written up in a local newspaper.

He gave a very compelling description of my piece, with specific details of what it all meant.

I read with great interest, impressed by the confidence in which he wrote, as if he had a direct connection to my thoughts as I created the piece.

He was an expert.

But the art critic was completely wrong about my meaning behind the piece!

To be fair, he wasn’t wrong because there is no right or wrong answer.

It was his interpretation, which is part of the point.

However, he had a very different view about what the piece was about than what I intended.

As it happened, I  didn’t understand at the time how some of my choices of materials, etc. were sending very unintentional messages.

I did like his interpretation better since it made me sound much more intelligent :).

Here is the secret

It can be whatever YOU want it to be.

Abstract art is simply an expression of the artist.

You may not be able to tell what they were trying to create.

And that is ok.

They may have been expressing an emotion or an idea.

They may have been painting their interpretation of a landscape, a place, a thought.

They may have been exploring principals and elements of art such as color, shape, contrast, value, or texture.

Or maybe they were inspired by a landscape, a place or a thought and the result is their interpretation.

It may or may not be obvious.

The interesting part about abstract art is that regardless of the artist’s intention, you get to participate with your own interpretation.

It may evoke an emotion in you….or not.

You may respond to the color, the energy, or what it represents to you.

Abstract art can be like a piece of music that moves you in some way, that draws out an emotion or connection that isn’t possible or easy to put into words.

I personally enjoy hearing about the artist’s inspiration behind a piece even if it is not my personal taste.

It helps me to appreciate the thought that went into creating it and to put myself in the artist’s frame of mind.

I’d love to hear what you think.  Comment below.

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