“Abstract is anything you want it to be!” a first-grader proclaimed. I’m struck by how poignant that answer is. It speaks volumes to how we view the abstracted work of art as believers and an audience in general. Many shy away from abstract as “too random”. I agree with them when we talk about intentionality. It’s actually quite ironic because Pollock, Richter and the like are interested in the properties of paint being subject to the “chaos of nature.” So sorry to burst your bubble, but by suspending the paint can over a canvas, you actually produce two things: natural laws of thermodynamics which order the can into smaller and smaller concentric swirls on the canvas, and, a very obvious logical conclusion that you are still in control of too many elements to remove yourself from the paint taking action.
A great abstract artwork first observes and embraces the natural world as beautiful, and then brings you to the recognition that there is a curiosity that surrounds exactly how beautiful the created world is. Alexander Calder, as a young man, was working on a naval ship off the coast of Guatemala when he was struck by the beauty of a suspended full moon on one clear, still horizon and the rising sun on the opposite horizon. He often referred to this point in his life as the point he decided to become an artist, professionally. His stabiles, mobiles and monuments conjure up a curiosity around the balance of a flamingo standing on one foot, the delicate strength of a tree trunk as the base for its nutrition-gathering leaves, or the delicate balance of the heavens. His shapes defy categorization – round triangles, square circles and pointed ovals behoove us to take a second look at oversimplifying creation. The complexity of shape, balance of elements and simplicity of expression, while seemingly disparate in statement, are beautiful to behold.
“Anything you want it to be,” is semi-accurate. But the abstract work is no less work or thought than a realistic depiction of the landscape or sunset. The abstract work gives way to opportunity for the imagination, but must be balanced with beauty in form and truth of expression.