“Abstract art is art that does not attempt to represent an accurate depiction of a visual reality but instead uses shapes, colors, forms and gestural marks to achieve its effect.” Wassily Kandinsky
Many people use the terms Modern Art to refer to so-called “Abstract Art”, even though, truth be told, Wassily Kandinsky was creating and philosophizing about abstraction way back in 1896. Not so modern, when you think about it.
Even though abstract art has been around for well over a hundred years, and it has become standard fare in the contemporary cultural landscape, many people still do not understand it, and many consider it radical.
When I was in college 40 years ago, I explored abstract painting extensively. Following the inspiration of my painting professor at Marshall University, June Kilgore, I immersed myself in the idea of pure form, color, line, texture, pattern, composition and and process. I pondered the idea of “reality” versus imagination; real depiction of a subject versus pure form; intellect versus soul; and other deep notions that young intellectuals ponder. I was obsessed with showing that what most people think of as “real” was just the tip of the iceberg of true reality, which was something deep and mystical and always just out of reach, but still worth grasping for.
Forty years later, I am not nearly so restive about those ideas, but they have never left me. The things that I learned about color and the other visual elements back then still has great influence in my artwork. Although my work now typically depicts a subject of some sort, it rarely follows any tradition of realism. Color, texture and composition are as important to me as the depiction of a subject. My work still tends to be semi- abstract, with a continued emphasis on the visual elements as the primary objective.
Over the years, I have met many different artists who have explored abstraction in their work as well, in myriad ways. Each has their own purposes and each follows a different path of exploring ideas and form.
This photograph by my friend Aimee Lambes is an image of a very “real” subject, yet the way that it is framed and shadowed puts as much emphasis on form as it does documentation of a natural phenomenon.
The photo is an image of an ice shelf from her recent trip to Antarctica. It is an amazing artwork that moves me to ponder the wonders of our world in distant places, and at the same time, feast my eyes on a work of art that is amazing in its abstract patterns, lines and textures.
The linear beauty, varied blue hues and diagonal movement make it both abstract and real.
My friend Sally Priscilla Lytle is a very prolific artist who frequently paints from life, meaning she focuses on a real subject as the catalyst of each work. As she paints, however, she surrenders to the movement, the color, the shape, the texture, etc., and the resulting artwork becomes an aesthetic expression full of life and the character of the moment.
In this painting of a bird, you feel the fluttering of the creature as it does what birds do. You see indications that make you think of bird, yet it is very abstract in the fluid, painterly brush strokes, and structured background. The color contrasts and gestural marks bring it to life, even though the image is far from a realistic documentation of a bird.
I recently have felt an urge to return to my earlier days of abstract painting. It won’t become my mainstay, at least that is not my intention at this point. But I thought it would be fun to explore some non-representational imagery. As I did this, I decided to put together an exhibit to include these new pieces with some works by fellow artists, to give visitors to my studio gallery a varied look at abstraction. The pieces that you see here by Aimee and Sally will be in the exhibit, as are works by Dave Kuntzman, Sarah Shumaker, Christopher Triner, David Dingwell, Stephen Tornero, Emily Vigil, and Chris Wurst. The“Abstract is Real” Art Exhibit will open on March 3, 2023 and will be on view until 5/2/23. There will be an opening reception on March 3 during Canton First Friday.
Some of the artworks in the “Abstract is Real” exhibit will be completely non-representational, and some will be abstracted representations of various subjects. They all promise to stretch the concepts of “abstract” vs. “real”. I think it will be a fun group of artworks to view as an ensemble.
My new abstract pieces are not nearly as serious and searching as the paintings that I did in college 40 years ago. Instead, they are playful and whimsical. I guess that they reflect the changes I have gone through in my life. Unlike the way I was in my youth, I am less searching and more inclined to sit back and enjoy the experience of creation without pretension.
I had fun making these paintings. I enjoyed the process of making marks and scribbles and adding color here and there. I may make more. Purely non-representational, they show impulsive scribbles, colorful dashes of paint and brightly patterned frames that become a part of the artwork.
I welcome you to visit the gallery/studio at 209 6th St., NW in Canton, OH to see the show, and to see the other fun things we have going on. There is always a lot happening at BZTAT Studios!
Life is an Adventure!