Why Abstract? : Communicating with the Viewer

As an artist presenting your work to the world, you are asking people to look at it. So you have a responsibility to communicate something about the work to other people.
With abstract work this can be difficult as there is still a traditional prejudice against this genre of art. People have been told it’s difficult so they expect it to be. Perhaps this is because they feel a pressure to understand what it’s about.

As an artist producing abstract work based on real objects, does it matter if the audience doesn’t recognize the objects being depicted and therefore misses something of what the work’s about? Does it mean that they should be depicted representationally? If they’re abstracted, will the work only appeal on an aesthetic level and if so, does this lead to abstraction being a pure/unconnected type of art?

So how do you communicate your ideas to the viewer in abstract work? Do you need to have an explanatory text? Maybe by abstracting you can’t ever hope to communicate everything about an object. Perhaps it’s okay to communicate one or two things about an object’s qualities? You could, for instance, emphasize mood and atmosphere by focusing on tone, colour and lighting or take one formal quality and exaggerate it. You might also think about giving the audience some visual cues by using simplified and recognizable shapes associated with the object, as William Scott did with his iconic frying pan.

So, a lot of questions and a few answers so far! As well as trying to find solutions to communicate through abstract art I think it’s also important to leave room for the intuitive response of the viewer. Sometimes something resonates and it’s not always easy to explain why. It’s good to leave some room for the magic to happen!