Notwithstanding innumerable art appreciation classes offered round the world, people still don’t understand abstraction in art.  The public doesn’t understand because they were never supposed to understand. And certain artists don’t understand because they first encounter the word through the mediation of the schoolhouse.

The idea of the abstract was from its outset an obfuscation. Every artist who ever tried to draw something either faces or struggles against the ways that the materials possess their own qualities.  So while abstraction as an idea might seem confusing, its reality is quite commonplace.  The marks you draw are at first just marks.  You begin with a blank canvas, and every line, color or tone that you place on the canvas that does not instantly present the motif in a mimetic way is “abstract.”  The most descriptive marks are also abstract too, but we’re less apt to notice.  The fact is that we see nature entire and each effort (of whatever sort) to separate out qualities is de facto an abstraction.  

But abstraction as a deliberate confusion of seeing came into vogue and persists as things do — just because.  Sometimes it can be marvelously used but it has become a convention now.  Its root taps deep down into Nature, but fads do not trend the way a thing winds into the mind’s labyrinth as a touchstone of perception and dreams.  No, the fad becomes a path disappearing into thickets.

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5 thoughts on “Disabstraction

  1. Yes, a lovely pastel rant – they are the best kind Aletha 🙂 Paul used to do full-blown purple and orange rants – haha – they are a bit hard to take.

  2. I might ought to do a purple and orange rant sometimes, though it would have to be in a character’s voice. I am reserving the right to keep my own purple side private (but my family knows!). I have been thinking about Paul a lot in regard to the writing here — trying to learn from the rich example he set in all those complex and different poems.

    The voices of characters can open doors — I see that in his poetry — the ways you can say things that are different from what you can say in your own voice — sometimes because they represent ideas that aren’t even your ideas, or that draw on experiences that are beyond your own personal experiences, but which as ideas make you wish to express them (sometimes for reasons that are not quite clear).

    Anyway, I miss him … I know you do too.

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