Why Abstract Art is Better Than Figurative Art

The Ant and The Butterfly, acrylic on paper, A5

In therapy this week I allowed my inner 5 year old child to paint and she painted this abstract piece (and told a gruesome story about a butterfly and an ant). As she painted I realised I never liked making figurative images (except cartoon faces, which I drew loads of when I was a little older). I loved abstract art. I loved looking at the colours and the textures of the paint. I always have.

I love making a mess too and when the paint came off the paper and onto my table, computer keyboard and glass of water, I giggled with glee. I love knowing I have always loved abstract art. My sense is it’s closer to where we come from and where we’re going (birth and death); closer to the energy of what we are. Figurative art shows us emotional and political aspects of how we are.

Abstract art is not like that. There are, of course, politics around who makes it in the art world but the paintings don’t instruct us to see life in a specific way. We can choose to make our own stories about them or we can appreciate the techniques used to make them or we can choose to appreciate the colours and textures. I guess we can do this with figurative art but it’s harder, especially with older art that has been studied rigorously for meaning extraction.

work in progress with pen lid as painting implement

The day after my therapy session I began work on my new canvas, which has been waiting for me for a while. I took gold paint, held it aloft and let it land randomly on the surface. Next came an urge to get something spiky – a pen lid – which I dragged through the paint with sweeping arcs; I moved around the canvas slowly several times doing this motion, enjoying the rasping sound as the pen lid made contact with the canvas. I made noises too – deep sighs and “yeses” as waves of ecstasy ebbed and flowed. I love painting like this!

work in progress

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