Monthly Archives: January 2012

Abstract Painting; How to Read It

Crazy Crazy!! 
If there was anything in art people find so incomprehensive and unconvincing, that would be abstract art. Abstract paintings, to those that find it hard to stretch their intellects, seemed meaningless. And in a country like Nigeria where art appreciation is at minimum, abstraction was madness.
On an exhibition, I saw an outrageous comment written by a medical student about an abstract paintings. He suggested that artists should undergo a ‘psych’ evaluation; and why? Simply because most of the paintings  were ‘meaningless’. I thought at first the individual was been unfair and unkind, but then I carried out a simple test; I chose a painting from the exhibits and placed it side by side with the word ‘meaningless’. Then I asked some onlookers whether they could make a meaning out of it. To my amusement, most of them looked at it for a moment and simply said ’you tell me’. So I rested my case
The Idea: bstract art is just a play of shapes.
In abstraction, nature is expressed by pictoral absolutes such as cubes, spheres, spirals, and triangles etc, achieved by composing those absolutes into a harmonious whole. To simplify it further, it is concerned with the essence of outer appearance of things and their rearrangement into forms and planes so as to fit in some general pattern. Understanding abstract art, assessment of its qualities as well as appreciating it thereby deriving pleasure from it have some mechanisms.
There are indeed some difficulties in understanding abstract art. But here is a list of some tips I’d like you to consider:
  1. Abstract art has a subject; you should know that.
  2. Know that A balance of form and colour makes abstactions pleasing to look at. 
  3. Participate with the artist helps a lot.

Now lets take a look at these points in turn.

Abstract art has a subject; No?
Just like representational art, abstract art also has a subject, but it is one that is not representational i.e. it may not take the pretext of object familiar to us, such as a tree, a human face or an animal. However, the abstract subject is the balance between these absolutes that exists only in our intellect; because the artist have eliminated the first line of contact between his artistic personality and the onlooker i.e. a representational element. So it is important to understand that the subject in an abstract painting is only a means for display of colour and form.
So what’s the next thing to consider after the Subject? Mind you, it’s still difficult to read it since the initial stage of contact (a representational element) is disposed off in abstract painting. we’ll talk about that next week. 
See ya
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Posted by on January 20, 2012 in arts and painting



Hi there.

Last time, I talked about the first few steps in appreciating painting. I said the unlooker should consider the following simple tips:

That Painting is a product of inner reality; and he should understand that there exixts a difference between the Act of creation and understanding.

Now, the next thing to do is to build the association further by observing Pictoral elements that make up the pictire he’s looking at.

  • Observe the pictoral element

Next is to build the association further by observing all the elements that up the picture. Understanding them will help one know how a picture is drawn and put together. In fact, pictoral elements analysis is put upfront in making art judgments and criticisms. Pictoral elements are many but their application depends on the artists’ inner feeling and nature of painting. Some of them are as follows;

The Subject.

This is the medium through which the artist wishes to exteriorize a concept. Every painting has a subject, and while a subject is a mean of transmission for the artist, it is for the spectator, a form of reception. Subjects may be representational i.e. may take the pretext of an object familiar to us such as a human being, an animal etc, or non representational i.e. takes the pretext of an unfamiliar objects such as spirals, cubes, etc. for example, in his recent canvases, Joe Musa, D.G. of National Art Council Lagos, studied women and thus, used them as media to exteriorize a concept. 

Centre of interest

This is the area in the painting where the artist tries to attract your attention. It is the part of the picture where the principal action takes place. One of Joe Musa’s paintings titled ‘from the market’ portrays a woman (subject) coming from the market with a basket containing some food stuff. That constituted the centre of interest.


This is the most important task of a painter and the ability to accomplish this, gives both the artist and the onlooker, more than any other quality, a sense of fulfillment and well being. This simply means arranging all elements of design; the figures or object, in a manner which makes the picture a harmonious and satisfactorily whole. This gives a certain feeling to the onlookers e.g. the classical atmosphere of a landscape, romantic atmosphere of still life, etc.

Brush work

This is the manner which the artist applies the paint on the canvass. It is determined by the rhythmic movements of the artists’ hands using the brush. Some brush works may be light which suggests softness, while others may be heavy with heavy impasto suggesting weight or solidity. Every artist has his own style of brush work. It is like handwriting that differs with individuals.

Volume and masses

These refer to visual effects of properties these terms indicate in nature. For example, a green tree that forms a mass in the sky is a ‘mass of green’. The volume of the same tree is the ‘bulk’ of the tree.

Value distribution

This is the term used to describe the relation of different part of the picture to the distribution of light. The distribution doesn’t take the actual colour into consideration, but its intensity.

Other pictoral elements include atmosphere, perspective solidity etc.

It is also important to understand that every picture is a combination of varying degrees of emotion and intellectual ideas subordinated to a central feeling. So pay a visit to an art gallery today and experience the pleasure, warmth and emotion packed in paintings. Buy a painting today and add an incredible beauty and warmth to your home or office.

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Posted by on January 16, 2012 in Uncategorized


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