When considered objectively, all art might be categorized as “abstract,” for no artist can capture the whole of reality around him or her. The artist selects elements to be included, abstracting them from reality to capture them on the canvas. As various movements moved away from the strictly representational, each chose to focus on some particular element of reality. When it came to the Cubists in the early 20th century, their focus tended to be the basic geometric forms underlying what they observed.
The Best Known Cubist – Picasso
Although there are actually many painters who explored the reaches of Cubism, the name most commonly associated with the movement is that of Pablo Picasso. Independent minded, Picasso drifted away from the formal training of the art schools, and instead studied and analyzed artistic styles that appealed to him, whether conventionally approved or not. It was his interest in African influenced art led him toward visualizing representational images in their component geometric forms. Once he had begun focusing on the parts of an image his work continued down that path, exploring possibilities.
The impulse of artists to explore visual possibilities is strong. Communication has always been a factor in art, of course, whether it is cavemen painting the story of a great hunt on the walls of their caves or Renaissance painters capturing the images of their patrons on canvas. Artists have something to “say” in their art. The Cubists wanted to “discuss” the underlying shapes of the world around them, so they abstracted those shapes from what they saw. Other artists pushed the activity of abstraction further.
From Geometry Into Abstraction
Whether it is about color, or motion, or emotion, an Abstract work has pulled something from reality. It asks the viewer to consider the possibility that they might recognize something without it being representational.
Diana Hobson’s works, such as “Cascade,” tease you into seeing things her way. The titles suggest the direction she is going, and then the energy of the composition, in color and layout, pulls the viewer along. The challenge of abstract art is that the viewer cannot simply glance at the work and think that they have “gotten it.” Abstract works make the viewer stop and pay attention. Which is, of course, what every artist wants for their work.
“Rocking Chair” (1943) by Pablo Picasso, photo by Hufsakamal, from Wiki Commons; used under “Fair Use” practices for purposes of instruction.
“Cascade”, by Diana Hobson, copyright Diana Hobson; used with permission.