It always makes me smile when I hear somebody commenting on an abstract piece, saying something along the lines of: “Oh I could do that!”
Umm. No. No you couldn’t.
Abstract always has formed at its heart. There is always a subject but what I do with it is to distil that form into the essence of its meaning. When I teach children I use a very simple lesson to explain this. I have large wooden cutouts of butterflies which I give to each child to use as a stencil. We discuss butterflies in terms of their patterning, their shape: all of which follows a never-ending checklist of balance, harmony, and synergy.
The children using the stencils create perfect butterflies following the rules are given to them to follow.
Once complete we hang them up.
Next, I ask them, now paint what a butterfly means to you.
Mouths fall open. Panic runs through the room like water bursting through a dam. We discuss the meaning of butterflies, as we each perceive them. Descriptive words are written down and then, “Have at it kids.” To create a depiction of exactly what we see before us is simply a mechanical act of practiced artistry, but to create a depiction of the Essence of the thing. Now that is truly art. It is also incredibly hard to do well, it takes time and I have yet to do an abstract piece that I did not at one point want to burn with a flame thrower.