“But it doesn’t look like anything!”

Abstract doesn’t tell you what to think. It treats you like a grownup.

We’re going to assume that since you’re here, like us you love everything about abstract art—the colors, the gestural marks, the freedom. But we hate to assume. You know what people say about that.

kago art print

Interior photo by Lakeisha Bennett

Maybe you landed here by accident and you’re thinking these artworks don’t look like anything. You’re absolutely right! They don’t look like any thing or object. While traditional art represents the world in recognizable images like boats, birds, balloons, flowers, trees, humans, houses, cities (you get the picture), abstract explores the relationship of form and color as a way to express energy, emotion, experience, and thoughts. 

Abstract art isn’t a departure from reality, it’s the reality behind our visible world.

Author Bridget Quinn, in her book “Broad Strokes: 15 Women Who Made Art and History,” said that abstract is sometimes described as a departure from reality. She suggests it is not a departure but instead a different reality—the reality behind our visible world. We like that description and hope that it helps you better understand what abstract artists are trying to accomplish through their work. 

Abstract art is emotion set in motion and it is open to interpretation, which is one of the beautiful things about it. It doesn't jump out and declare, “Hey, THIS is what I’m all about.” Which, of course, can make it difficult for people as their eyes search to find something recognizable.

Instead, abstract art requires you to have an open, inquiring mind, to use your imagination, and to enter the painting and just see where it takes you.

Sounds fun doesn’t it? Abstract art gives you the freedom to explore the artwork and assign your own meaning to the piece. There is no wrong response. No wrong response? Now, that’s freeing! Sure, the titles may give you a clue as to what the artist was thinking about when the pieces were created, but once they’re out in the public, it is up to you. This intensely personal process on the part of you, the viewer, enriches the experience of an artwork.

Painter Mark Rothko once made an interesting statement. He said, “A painting is not a picture of an experience, it IS the experience.” We like that.

Or maybe Willy Wonka is more your style, “Come with me and you’ll be in a world of pure imagination. Take a look and you’ll see into your imagination.”

So go have a second look, escape, and enjoy the experience!