The most valuable lesson I was ever taught in my art journey, was from one of my art professor's when I was a first year fledgeling in Art College.
"Don't let your inability to draw something realistically be an excuse to call it abstract art" Mr Ranjan said
Powerful words that stuck to my skin. It completely changed me profoundly from that day on in what I called an abstract.
Calling myself an abstract artist has its pitfalls. Often associated with minimal lines, squiggles, a childlike exuberance and wild untamed color, abstract art is perhaps one of the most misunderstood.
What started as an anti-movement to the beautiful and the organised, abstract art has taken on so many forms and streams. From the angular geometry of Cubists, the haunting dream-like quality of the Surrealists, and the deeply personal internalisation of the Expressionists, to modern day abstractions which mirror society, sensationalization, the glory of horror, shock and cutting edge technology have found a mix into abstract art. Abstraction is not meant to be beautiful. It is a statement.To generate a reaction: both positive and negative.
Abstraction is an intentional purpose. I learnt that the day my professor's words seeped into my brain.
I then spent the next 4 years learning to draw everything in realistic dimensions. Learning to perfect the angles of the human body, the face. Learning how the pupils dilate or contract with light. Learning about shadows and fall off points. perspective: both simple and complex. I worked very hard to learn to draw without color, because once color was introduced, there's added visual movement, emotions, feelings. Hours were spent studying people at train stations, hospital waiting rooms. I studied leaves, twigs, cattle, farm animals. I learnt to study moss, the crumble of stone, how friction causes edges to fray and how forms nestled into one another with a scientific precision.
Abstract art is not about putting color patches next to each other. Gosh, it makes my skin crawl to see tips on making a 'pretty" picture. It is not about matching art to the color of the carpet, or what decor magazines project as fashionable. Abstraction is taking a realistic notion, and breaking it down to its essentials. Exposing its bones, its essence. It is the art of deviation, enabling the viewer to look at it just a little differently. It is knowing how to look at things in the face and saying, I want to look deeper. There is a purpose, a theme, a flow and a design to abstract art.
It can be as intuitive as child's play, letting the feelings of the notion drive your hand. Or it can be a deliberate play of color,forms and textures. It is how things flow to capture the moment of the expression. It is not random, but purposeful in its intention.
Abstract art need not be pretty. It can be a scream from torment, a cathartic release. It could be exploring one's dark side. It could be a reflection on society, race, religion, injustice. It could be a cry for revolution, a change in mindset. A need to introspect in evaluation.
Abstract art does not need to follow trends. It has to be authentic to the artististic expression. It can be as beautiful as an ethereal landscape or can be dark as the challenging times we live in. Most of all, it should make your audience stop in its tracks, wanting to delve into it a little more. It should be reality at its beautiful, bare essentials. It should invite dialogue, elicit a strong response and make you feel like you could never have imagined it any other way.