The best way to look at a piece of modern art, mainly abstract art, is to forget that it is abstract. It’s been quite a while since non-artistically inclined persons (whatever that may mean) started complaining that they look at works of modern painting and understand nothing. No one can blame them. No one can blame them for not understanding, as actually no one is sure that there is anything to be understood. Maybe there is to feel, or even figure out, or even interpret, but that’s not the same. And no one can blame them for complaining, because they were made to believe, through art critics and gallery blabbers that they should look at art and grasp genius! And so understand was used as if a synonym of ‘to appreciate’. And hence whenever you cannot understand, then you cannot appreciate and vica versa. With time a great drift was happening between large groups of the general public, and ‘les beaux arts’. Many gave up on the visual arts since time immemorial. And this was a big loss for both.
To start with maybe the word abstract itself, is partly to blame. Non figurative was a better term. What I do not understand is why should Art be so loaded with analysis. And I am totally sure why should an orange square on a canvas, (for example) be described as abstract. Maybe its an oversimplification to say that an area of color is not abstract, because it is sensed, hence felt. So maybe it is not.
An average person who complaints about modern artistic trends, could buy a dress for his wife on her birthday, or a carpet for his flat, decorated with yellow triangles, red circles and blue squares. And they could even be muddled or sketchy. He buys them because he finds them pretty to look at. So why not an abstract painting. Well simply ecause he was made to fear ‘not understanding it’. So its not the “nonfigurative” aspect of the painting that’s the problem. It’s the way we look at it. And again we are not to blame.
So if we make a jump to the opposite bank of the river, and take a look at older age works of art which everybody could ‘understand’, and say that maybe the deep artistic value in a realistic painting or lets even say what makes it deeply attractive and unique, are the ‘abstract’ values embedded in it. So nobody told us the artistic laymen what is it that makes a Rambrand, a Turner, or even a Cezanne, what is it that makes their works beautiful other than the obvious draftsmanship. Had we been told to look deeper and beyond the clever detailing, we might have not been shocked by the Picasso’s and the endless list, and also maybe we would have been better able to judge – and even influence- the development art styles since.
Well maybe you won’t buy an abstract painting as a dress to your wife on her birthday,
but try to look at this way. Simply look at it. As freely as you can.