What you could see in abstract paintings

Updated: Nov 25

Hilma Af Klint 1915 The Swan, No.18
Hilma Af Klint 1915 The Swan, No.18

Abstract painting is an art that does not attempt to represent an accurate depiction of a visual reality but instead uses shapes, colors, forms, and gestural marks to achieve its effect.

Abstract Paintings value apparently is not about the artist's techniques, the realistic color tones or lines, and boundaries, but instead, it is about the philosophy behind the abstraction practices, to understand the core of abstraction we need to have a close look at abstraction origins.

Hilma af Klint (26 October 1862 – 21 October 1944)
Hilma af Klint (26 October 1862 – 21 October 1944)

Hilma Af Klint was a Swedish artist and mystic whose paintings are considered among the first abstract works known in Western art history. A considerable body of her work predates the first purely abstract compositions by Kandinsky, Malevich, and Mondrian. She belonged to a group called "The Five", comprising a circle of women inspired by Theosophy, who shared a belief in the importance of trying to contact the so-called "High Masters"—often by way of séances. Her paintings, which sometimes resemble diagrams, visually represented complex spiritual ideas.

But what is Theosophy

The Theosophical Society, founded in 1875, is a worldwide body to advance the ideas of Theosophy in continuation of previous Theosophists, especially the Greek and Alexandrian Neo-Platonic philosophers dating back to the 3rd century CE. It also encompasses wider religious philosophies like Vedānta, Mahāyāna Buddhism, Qabbalah, and Sufism. The Theosophical Society functions as a bridge between East and West, emphasizing the commonality of human culture.

The term "theosophy" comes from the Greek theosophia, which is composed of two words: theos ("god," "gods," or "divine") and Sophia ("wisdom"). Theosophia, therefore, may be translated as "wisdom of the gods", "wisdom in things divine", or "Divine Wisdom".

 Wassily  Kandinsky(16 December 1866 – 13 December 1944)
Wassily Kandinsky(16 December 1866 – 13 December 1944)

Kandinsky openly acknowledges that his art theories are based on the occult teachings of Helena Blavatsky, the founder of Theosophy, and author of The Secret Doctrine. he wrote in 1918 “I got everything from the Secret Doctrine [of Blavatsky].

Blavatsky’s work is so fundamental to modern magic that 1888, the date of its publication, is considered a landmark year in theosophist circles.

Although Russian by birth, Kandinsky belonged to the German expressionist movement known as Die Brücke [The Bridge] founded in 1905. Rejecting their “bourgeois” backgrounds, they adopted a bohemian lifestyle, free love, and represented nudity in their art. This group was also strongly influenced by magic through the occult theories of Blavatsky, Anne Besant, and Charles Webster Leadbeater.

Pieter Cornelis Mondriaan 7 March 1872 1 February 1944
Pieter Cornelis Mondriaan 7 March 1872 1 February 1944

Another forerunner in Abstract Art is the Dutch painter Piet Mondrian, He was also a theosophist and a close friend of the philosopher and mystic Schoenmaekers, author of many works on “rationalist mysticism” including The New Image of the World, which proposes a whole system of universal symbolism that attempts to explain the meaning of colors, forms and lines.

“I am always driven to the spiritual,” Mondrian stated. “Through Theosophy, I became aware that art could provide a transition to the finer regions, which I will call the spiritual realm.”

Now could full abstraction be defined as art
Now could full abstraction be defined as art!

After having a close look at abstraction's origins, Now we Know, Abstraction was a theosophical simplification and superficialization movement against the complex Arts, philosophies, and literature.

Now could full abstraction be defined as art?

First, we need to answer, what are the boundaries of art?

Art is a subject of beauty, creativity, and uniqueness, art touches emotions to deliver a message.

Abstraction of details, semi-abstraction, in a painting could help emphasize and focus on the core message of a painting, a step forward in reducing the distortion of thoughts of the viewer, whilst full abstract paintings could be beautiful and creative but because of the low painting skills level it requires, it is indeed reproducible and lack the factor of uniqueness.

The key point, the artist approaches human emotions to deliver a message, in the case of fully abstracted paintings, the artist could touch viewers' emotions, but there will be no message to deliver.

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