Painting Abstracts

Today’s “Compare 3” is about painting abstracts. Abstract Art could be described as painting “about nothing”, but even a purely random splashing of paint still ends up as “something”, somehow. I’m not much of an abstract artist, but I do occasionally paint in an abstract style, such as in “Abstract: Creative Mind“, which was created for a children’s book project. I also regularly enjoy painting abstract concepts and ideas, such as in “Time” and “Breakfast with Friends”.

Abstract: Creative Mind” meets the traditional definition of abstract art; the composition has no intentional identifiable physical world subject, is not confined to a construct, and is instead about form, line, texture, and color. Whereas, this next oil painting is about an Abstract Concept, in which the subject is identifiable, but the painting represents something we can’t define in a concrete physical way. “Time” can be represented by objects we use to measure and mark time, but time itself is an abstract concept.

In this last example, “Breakfast with Friends”, the painting represents an Abstract Idea, such as “happiness”, “peace of mind”, “wellness”, “connection” and “community”. Social and psychological concepts aren’t tangible objects, and therefore what these ideas mean to us vary from person to person. We cannot disagree that a chair or a table are pieces of furniture, or that tigers and lions are big cats, because these are facts verified by the physical world. But we certainly disagree about how to define “justice”, “fairness”, “balance”, “health”, “contentment”, “freedom”, “socializing”, “conformity”, “oppression”, and much more. 

However, we can find warm fuzzy spaces of near-universal agreement. In an age when contemporary lifestyles include plugging into virtual connections first thing in the morning, it’s a common human experience to eat breakfast while logged into conversations via newsfeeds, social media, blogs, e-mail, and other platforms. These fellow humans we connect with are our community. Some of them become part of our inner circle, and our morning breakfast routine. We can imagine a virtual coffee house or greasy spoon diner, offering breakfast any hour of the day, and there’s always someone to share our human condition with.

Abstract ideas such as “social connection”, “contentment”, “nourishment” and “support”, can be depicted by warm hues, earth tones, and complimentary colors. Shapes and lines create symmetry and balance; the feeling that diverse pieces are coming together harmoniously. The merging of food (physical, timeless, universal human need) and technology (intangible, modern, universal societal need), gives an old fashioned comfort to a progressive world that often feels cold and isolating.

Because we cannot, and will never, agree to a single definition for abstract concepts and ideas, it would be a relief if society would evolve from the practice of dictating which definitions are “right” or “wrong”, and break free from the tyrannical acceptance of punishing people for “wrong thoughts”. I will never agree that this is what progressive, educated people should advocate.

Through art, perhaps we can gently remind ourselves that there are abstract concepts and ideas we can agree upon: Most people do not want others to suffer. Most want goodness for themselves and others. Most people want to feel a sense of belonging to something bigger than themselves.

It is normal to disagree about what the problems are, or how to solve them, but we dehumanize each other when we deny people the right to view concrete facts as facts, and abstract concepts as ours alone to define, we the individual human being.

May we embrace open minds, open hearts, and the freedom to express what we believe, even if others may not agree or like what we say.

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