Abstract paintings

The term abstract, used to describe a certain genera of painting, is self contradictory. There is no such thing as a 'pure' figurative or a 'pure' abstract art work even if its creator meant it to be. The photograph, to take a figurative extreme, is an abstraction at the mechanical/chemical level and never an exact replica of the original. Likewise Abstract Expressionist painters (De Kooning, Pollock, Rothko, Gorky) in their production techniques but, in the best of them at least, in their command of an emotional authority both in content and intent, are abstractions of the artist's own emotional reality.

Luminaries of the abstract schools, Mondrian, Van Doesburg, Klee and Kandinsky all clung firmly to their belief in a spiritual dimension to art. Progressively Die Stihl, Bauhuas and Constructivism leading eventually to Art Concrete came perhaps nearest to the formulation of a purely abstract aesthetic but even here the most successful of artists were appreciated as much for their evocation of responses in the viewer as they were for the compositions of colour and form that they persisted with. No wonder that this period produced manifesto after manifesto looking to achieve the impossible, the formulation of a truly abstract art, and all disagreeing on both the methods and the aesthetic principles to be employed to this end.

The point at which the concept of a truly abstract art form breaks down is, ultimately, in the response of a third party whether this is intentionally invoked or not. This response becomes an integral part of the work and the part which then denies its abstract pretension. The Heisenberg principle is universally applicable.

That is not to say that these terms, figurative and abstract, are pointless. They are necessary to know where we are and where works are to be placed in the repertory. They are analogous to zero and infinity in mathematics. Neither exist in themselves but are useful concepts in order to measure, characterize and categorize what lies between. In the visual arts the single most important consideration is that they are made to be 'seen'. Art works have a purpose and it is the artist’s or his work's intended purpose and the role played by the viewer which defines them as either figurative (depicting some mutually understood existing thing or emotion) or 'abstract' (revealing some new thing or emotion) or places them at some point on a spectrum of interpretations between these hypothetical extremes. Personally I am of the opinion that only the latter qualifies as art. This is because irrespective of their production methodology or aesthetic intent they seek to add something new to our experience and response to life and the world about us. They are creative in intent rather than depictive.

Accordingly as I decline with age, especially contending with vision and back issues, I no longer having either the time, ability or stamina for detailed figurative work, I shall tend more towards, perhaps work exclusively at, the more abstract extreme of the creative spectrum. I will therefore likely be adding more to this page than any other.

Oils


Portrait of Sharon Warwick

Coffee shop and a one-legged lady

Oil impasto on canvas 700mm x 500mm
painted 2019