How to Analyze Abstract Art?


The world of art is one that is ever-changing; continuously developing as the world does. When approaching a piece which consists of color blocks, simple shapes, simplified figures, and a subjective approach to art, many viewers become closed off to the piece. It becomes difficult to see these pieces as art when the typical representation of art is what one might find in the Renaissance period.

There are three basic steps when analyzing any work of art:

Description: What do you see? State the obvious and then dig deeper. Identify the elements and principles of design that you see. What are the colors? Are they warm or cool? Are they saturated or unsaturated? What kinds of lines are used? What shapes? Is it visually balanced? Does it have symmetrical or asymmetrical balance? Is there a repetition of certain elements?

Interpretation: What is the artwork trying to say? How do the things you see and describe contribute to its message? How does it make you feel? Is there a rhythm or movement? Does it make you feel happy, or sad? Does it convey energy, or does it convey a sense of stillness and peace? Read the title of the painting. It can give you some insight into its meaning or intent.

Evaluation: Does it work? Are you moved by it in any way? Do you understand the artist’s intent? Does it speak to you? Not every painting is going to speak to every person.

As Pablo Picasso said, “There is no abstract art. You must always start with something. Afterward, you can remove all traces of reality.”

Most abstract art starts with a common human experience. You might just have to spend some time with a painting to uncover what that is and what it means to you. A painting represents a unique conversation between the artist and a particular viewer. Although you don’t have to know anything about the artist in order to be moved by a painting, it is likely that the viewer with the greatest knowledge of the abstract artist and his or her background will most appreciate and understand the artwork.

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