• Shailja Kapoor

Can Abstract Art Be Decoded?

Shailja Kapoor

Abstract art is usually condoned as a lazy form of art, where artists try their best to stray away from actual interpretation or depiction of reality. This form of art has been lingering around for several centuries which runs back to the Paleolithic Era (Stone Age) which orchestrated various relevant art movements. Abstraction was directly correlated to Impressionism and Cubism, which largely affected early 19th-century European paintings and sculptures. Abstract art influenced and continues to influence various aspects of reality, especially in the world of cinema, culture, and music. The 2010 science fiction action film Inception, written and directed by Christopher Nolan, featured the Study for Head of George Dyer by Francis Bacon, which appears for a reason. Since the movie is an homage to lost love and the psychological effects of loss. The song Viva la Vida by the British rock band, Coldplay is said to be inspired by the late Mexican painter Frida Kahlo’s final painting, also called Viva la Vida. Artists creating abstract art often focus on visual qualities like colour, form, texture, scale and more, in their nonobjective work. This is what makes it so unique and authentic. People often ponder, assume, and misinterpret the existence of this form of art. They claim it to be indecipherable, which is a rather ignorant claim to make. Observance and interpretation is an art and a skill that one can sharpen whilst reading, learning, and studying contemporary art. If you observe Alberto Burri's Grande Cretto Nero (large black cretto), you'll notice the fascinating surface, how it is simultaneously natural and unnatural. Many of the details will never come through on a computer monitor. You need the scale of the work. You need the richness of the colours. You need the context, not only in terms of the way the piece is displayed but in terms of the history of art. As complex as it seems, at the end of the day, it is worth it. Decoding the art is subjective and wholly psychological. The features of geometrical patterns and soothing colour palette were collectively dumped under the title of 'Minimalism'. The idea was to take a real-world object and strip it down to only the most essential elements that, when viewed, still encapsulate all that thing is, was, and will ever be. It is an experience that engages the senses which can activate the release of pleasure-related neurotransmitters like dopamine, reinforcing art as a mood-enhancing experience. To answer the awaited question, can abstract art be decoded? There is no right or wrong answer to this question. Abstract art is open to interpretation, and that is one of the most beautiful things about it. In art, there is also the notion of the "Avant-Garde". To put it simply, the art world has a Zeitgeist (spirit of generation) of its own, and there are entire periods in some artists' careers where they try to poke and pull at this zeitgeist to further the question of what is and isn't art. A lot of abstract artwork that people don't "get" falls into this category because it isn't meant to be appreciated from any of the traditional perspectives. At the end of the day, there is no such thing as "real art". Let's face it, many people don't see much difference between the art of a professional abstract painter and the art of a toddler, making it much harder to find meaning in it. Since abstract art is primarily about the formal elements of design, and not necessarily based on its recognisable outlooks, it all comes down to the meaning the artist gives to the painting. A scribble made at the back of a 6-year-old's notebook and a splash of Kandinsky's watercolour abstracts go hand in hand. I urge you to look out of your window today, in hopes of finding appreciation for our contemporary surroundings.

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