Saturday, 4 August 2012

Abstract - what can you see?

Sometimes when you look at an abstract expressionist painting you can see things there that probably aren't intended to be there. It's like looking at clouds and picking out shapes. Different people see different things: minds want to identify things in shapes that mean something. I always remember the Peanuts cartoon where Lucy, Charlie Brown and Linus are lying on their backs looking at clouds: 

Lucy: Aren’t the clouds beautiful? They look like big balls of cotton. I could just lie here all day and watch them drift by. If you use your imagination, you can see lots of things in the cloud’s formations. What do you think you see, Linus?
Linus: Well, those clouds up there look to me look like the map of the British Honduras on the Caribbean. That cloud up there looks a little like the profile of Thomas Eakins, the famous painter and sculptor. And that group of clouds over theregives me the impression of the Stoning of Stephen. I can see the Apostle Paul standing there to one side.
Lucy: Uh huh. That’s very good. What do you see in the clouds, Charlie Brown? 
Charlie Brown: Well… I was going to say I saw a duckie and a horsie, but I changed my mind.

You could say that they are both right - a person sees what they see. Or you could say that they are both wrong - they are both looking at clouds, nothing more, nothing less. How do artists feel about this? Some artists seem to mind if you look at their pictures and see things that "aren't there", especially if it isn't what the artist intended. After all if your abstract piece was intended as a polemic against the international domination by the christian right, or a statement of how your sexuality tends to define you I can imagine it could be a bit annoying if someone says they see "a duckie and a horsie". On the other hand abstract expressionist painting often comes from "within" - and artists are often surprised by what ends up on the canvas themselves. Which is why a number of attempts by critics to explain abstract art often sound a lot like Linus, and people looking at abstract art feel intimidated. After all they don't see all that pretentious "intellectual" crap, they see the "duckie and the horse".

Anyway, here's another iPad picture - what do you see?

In other news my website has been updated - now with up to date pictures, front page slideshow and prices and sizes of all works listed. Take a look

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