skip to Main Content

Art Movement in Focus : Abstract Art

Difficult to define and harder to interpret, and even harder to attempt. This art movement definitely rides on its own track. By definition the term ‘abstract’ in art applies to an idea from a specific instance, having only intrinsic form with little or no attempt at pictorial representation or narrative content.

Digging a little deeper it stands to define a trend in painting and sculpture in the twentieth century. Abstract art tries to make a break from known representation of physical objects. It explores the relationships of forms and colors, whereas more traditional art represents the world in recognizable images.

Popularly also called non-objective art or non-representational art,( painting, sculpture, or graphic art) where the portrayal of things from the visible world plays no part. However all art consists largely of elements that can be called abstract—elements of form, colour, line, tone, and texture.

Thus it can be safely said that abstract art is art use shapes, colours, forms and gestural marks to achieve its effect. and does not attempt to represent an accurate depiction of a visual reality.

In the words of Arshile Gorky –

 “Abstraction allows man to see with his mind what he cannot see physically with his eyes….Abstract art enables the artist to perceive beyond the tangible, to extract the infinite out of the finite. It is the emancipation of the mind. It is an exploration into unknown areas.”

Hilma Klimt
Predating the works of many of the frontrunners of Abstract Art, Hilma was a Swedish artist who was deeply inspired by her spiritual upbringing. Her art was largely informed by her spiritual practices. Self proclaimed – that her work was ahead of her times, Hilma wished for her art to be displayed twenty years after her death. She died in 1944 and her work is on display at the Guggenheim museum.

Kazimir Malevich
Malevich was a Ukranian whose pioneering work deeply influenced on the development of non-objective, or abstract art. This Kyiv born artist invented the concept of Suprematism and worked  towards developing a form of expression that moved away from the world of natural forms. The idea was to access the so-called supremacy of pure feeling and spirituality. Malevich is considered to be a pioneer of Ukrainian avant-garde.

Franz Kline

This American Abstract Expressionist is best known for large black and white paintings which bear abstract motifs set down with great confidence. Though he started out as a realist, a style he perfected during academic training admiring Old Masters such as Rembrandt. Later after settling in New York he evolved his signature abstract approach. He was famous for his black and white abstractions, which are reminiscent of New York’s cityscape. Also the landscape of his childhood home in rural Pennsylvania, and an influence of Japanese calligraphy.

Nicolas Stael
Nicolas Stael is regarded as a part of the second great generation of European abstract artists. Coming of age in post-1945 Paris, he was much influenced by improvisatory and non-geometric abstraction. It was similar to the set of contexts and constraints as Abstract Expressionism in post-war America. Staël opened up a unique space in between representational and non-representational art. He inspired figures from Jean-Luc Godard – whose early cinematography is said to have been influenced by the talented Stael’s color-palette.

Hans (Jean) Arp
Arp was of French Alsatian and German decent. Jean (also known by his German name Hans) began training as an artist in 1900 in Strasbourg and went on to study in Weimar, Germany, and at the Académie Julian in Paris.  In 1931 Arp participated in the Abstraction-Création movement, which absorbed the members of Cercle et Carré (Circle an Square) Arp’s style developed alongside various art movements and through his meetings with fellow artists from different schools and genres. They all impacted his art.

Mark Rothko
As a name Mark Rothko has become synonymous with the art movement Abstractionism and additionally “color field painting”. This a style of painting that emerged in New York during the 1940s and 1950s.  Often thought of as an Abstract Expressionist, Rothko arrived at his epic style after a long artistic and spiritual journey.

Ian Davenport
Ian Davenports ‘Poured Lines’ and ‘Puddle Painting’ are known for evoking a sense of rhythm and harmony. This English painter has been celebrated for his seemingly simple paintings for over two decades and is a stalwart of the abstract school of art. By assembling vertical lines in a variety of colors. He creates a rich visual language. It is demonstrative of the artist’s astute understanding of colour theory and his commitment to evolving his iconic repeat process.

Franz West
Franz West is known for his ironic, irreverent, yet profoundly philosophical creations that are statement pieces on their own. He is most definitely a key figure of European art in the late 20th century.
It can be said that West brought in a punk aesthetic into the immaculate spaces of art galleries. His abstract works include sculptures, furniture, collages. They are large-scale works and on their own they may even come across as  crude and unpretentious. But according to the artist “It does not matter what the art looks like, but how it is used”

Sarah Lucas
Sarah Lucas is known for her kinaesthetic photographs, performances, and sculpture. Her unique take on women and sexuality has led to many interesting interactive visual dialogue Typically works that use humour, visual puns and sexual metaphors of sex, death, Englishness and gender. Sarah’s works have been showcased in prestigious exhibitions and are a part of renowned collectives.
Lady Gaga famously said – “So there’s nothing more provocative than taking a genre that everybody who’s cool hates – and then making it cool.” And Sarah’s work is demonstrative of the same

Molly Zuckerman Hartung  
Like many other abstractionist, Molly Zuckerman-Hartung too has known to push the boundaries of traditional two-dimensional art along with her abstract sculptural works. Molly’s work incorporates collage, found objects, include cutting, weaving, layering, and scraping. Zuckerman-Hartung’s style is typically characterized by experimentation and attention to materials and techniques.

Davide Balliano
Davide Balliano’s style involves an austere and an economical language of abstract geometries. He creates a strong conversation with architecture and his work investigates existential themes. Themes that include the identity of man in the age of technology and his relationship with the sublime. Davide describes his practice as monastic, austere and concrete. His meticulous paintings are clean, austere and precise.
As  Kirk Varnedoe, very aptly put it – “The less there is to look at, the more important it is that we look at it closely and carefully. This is critical to abstract art. Small differences make all the difference.” As compelling as the artists are, their processes continue to create stories for us.

Visit the archive for Art Movement in Focus.

Back To Top