Abstract art is perhaps one of the most difficult expressions of art to understand, much like free-hand jazz. Unless one is aware of what was before abstract art and what came after, it is impossible to truly appreciate what it stands for and what it means to convey. Thus, chronologically, abstract art was a movement that came right after the Renaissance and all other art movements such as Impressionism, Realism until the 19th century. All these movements were characterized by a normal and relatable perspective, where a painting or sculpture reproduced something from the visible reality which was easily recognizable. All this was, of course, happening in Western art, mainly European, only when alternative forms of reproduction of reality became available with the introduction of other cultures and expressions of art, artists started wondering about new dimensions of reality and exposing it through alternative means and artifices.
Abstract art makes use of color, form and line, a visual language, in order to create a structure or composition which cannot be found in the immediate, material world, but is rather a poetical expression of the artists’ and the way he chooses to present or understand a certain aspect of the world surrounding him. Perhaps more than in other manifestations of art, an abstract artist truly needs to be a poet. Basically, abstract art is like a metaphor using colors, lines and forms to create a new language.
The word “abstract” in itself means a transgression from reality, or from what we perceive as reality with the means we possess. A piece of abstract art can be more or less departed from reality, and the viewer can easily recognize an object or a landscape or it can be so deformed that without a Rosetta stone it cannot be deciphered. But in some instances abstract art can be even a more realistic representation of the world, because it can be argued that art cannot perfectly represent reality.
Moreover, abstract art can also be the normal representation of a person, object, landscape or anything else, but where the use of color is unnatural, different from what you would see in nature. There is also geometric abstraction, which makes no use of shapes, forms or objects that are found in reality; something similar are also lyrical abstraction and cubism. Cubism, whose most representative artist was Picasso, depicts recognizable and relatable subjects, with the exception that it alters forms, colors, perspectives and so on. There are many more things to be said about abstract art, but without a comprehensive understanding of European art and available examples, we shall stop here.