• smitoubsi

Why Are People Fascinated by Abstract Art

Updated: Feb 3

People are fascinated by abstract art becuase of many reasons, perhaps primarily due to personal connection with the painting. Abstract art is one of many forms of art. Art, in general, is an expression of our thoughts, emotions, intuitions and desires. It is about sharing our different experiences of the same world we live in.

Acrylic abstract painting

Abstract art as a movement began in the late 19th century where new developments and fundamental changes in the fields of technology, science and philosophy inspired many artists to create a new style that embodied the rapidly evolving world. Abstract art does not attempt to represent an accurate depiction of visual reality. It is a combination of various elements of colours, shapes, lines, textures, etc.

Art is a language

All forms of art represent a universal language of communicating and exchanging information, ideas and feelings. Accepting art as a language means that art is an integral element of human life.

Cambridge Dictionary defines communication as “the process by which messages or information is sent from one place or person to another. Communication is also the exchange of information and the expression of feeling that can result in understanding”.

Communication is a process of meaningful interaction among human beings. It facilitates the spread of knowledge and forms relationships between people.

Communication is the very foundation of all human relationships.

Without communication, human life would be totally different and perhaps impossible.

Art and language were two of the first developments of early civilizations. Both have mutually supported one another, with drawings often expressing what words could not.

A picture is worth a thousand words!

There is a direct and integral link between art, communication and human relationships. Art reflects our ever changing culture and has the ability to change society’s values.

Therefore, art is much more than colours and lines as it can often easily be understood by people from different social, cultural, and political backgrounds. Art can help to alleviate stress and discomforts. It is essential for physical, emotional and mental wellbeing. There are numerous studies showing how people feel better whether by creating art or by simply being in the presence of something art-related.

Non-representational painting

Colourful abstract

I am fascinated by non-representational abstract paintings and I have been creating abstract paintings for many years. The most intriguing element of abstract painting is the journey that each painting takes you to unknown and unfamiliar destinations for a short while.

It is all about the ultimate freedom of expression without rules, restrictions and limitation. Ultimate freedom to the artist to use their imagination and feelings as well as for the viewers to look beyond what we can physically see and free their minds of familiar visual restrictions. It is not about creating aesthetic value or beauty and the artist can use whatever tool he/she wishes to create the painting with. Paint dripping, throwing, scraping are commonly used ways in abstract painting. I use my hands regularly as I feel more connected to the paints and the painting.

Abstract painting is different from realism painting, e.g. landscape, where the focus is on attention to details and recreating real objects from the world around us. Abstract painting focuses instead on the pure visual quality and the feeling of the work itself, allowing the many elements of the painting (colours, shapes, lines, texture, etc.) to communicate with its viewers. It may seem to some that an abstract painting could have been done by a 5-year old, but the reality is far more complex.

Perhaps more than any other form of art, abstract art has challenged the view to appreciate it. Many people put emphasis on understanding abstract art first to appreciate it. I do not think that you need to understand abstract art to appreciate its connection. This is, in my view, the difficulty some people experience when looking at abstract art as all the time they are trying to understand it, trying to find familiar objects, trying to understand its meaning or its message.

Many people commented seeing a face or a house in some of my paintings, although there are no painted faces or houses. This is, in fact, what the brain is trying to interpret the painting by attempting to find familiar or relatable objects from the real world.

To see abstract art, you need to see it with your feelings as it is self-inspiring, self-propelling, self-motivated. Abstract art is so unique and extremely hard to copy as it is created with feelings, the artist’s feelings, which I believe is impossible for anyone to be able to copy the artist’s feelings.

The beauty of abstract art is that it can be interpreted differently by different people. Once connected with an abstract art piece, each viewer will receive a different feeling from the same one artwork. It is magical that the same piece of artwork could communicate with a very wide range of people without cultural, political, religious and language boundaries.

Abstract art is truly a universal and a personal language that speaks to your feelings not to your brain.

Picture with a Circle - Wassily Kandinsky 1911

Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944) is perhaps the most famous in abstract art, a Russian artist who saw abstraction as the path to spiritual enlightenment, rather than just a new technique to shake up the world. Other famous artists such as Piet Mondrian, Kazimir Malevich and Frantisek Kupka followed Kadinsky’s footstep in pursuit of pure abstract.

In the 20th century in particular, many artists were thinking deeply about how to represent their own minds.

Abstract Art Today

For hundreds of years, realism art dominated the European art world from religious paintings to landscapes to commissioned portraits of upper-class people. It is thought the years 1912-1925 and 1947-1970 are the two golden ages of abstract art. Today, abstract art is a well-known global style for modern and contemporary art. Over the years abstract art has become one of the most popular styles of art and more familiar with the general public. There is a vast amount of abstract art being made today of high quality.

The peak of abstract art was in 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. A whole new generation of abstract artists embraced it to spectacular effect such as Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Mark Rothko and several other artists.

Abstract Art Elements

Abstract art is a combination of many elements, such as colour, forms, shapes, lines and texture. Each individual element can have a strong effect on our emotions and moods. Understanding individual effect of each element and combining all elements (i.e. emotional effects) in one painting would most certainly create a great piece of art work. I believe this is what differentiates one painting from another.

Colour Psychology

Out of all the elements, colour has the strongest effect on our emotions. Colour psychology is the study of hues as a determinant of behaviour and it depicts how colour affects us. Each individual has a varying degree of emotional responses to colour hue, saturation and brightness. Human response to colour is unique to each person and is deeply rooted to personal and cultural experiences.

Further reading: Personality Colour; Colour Psychology-Home Décor; How to Make an Abstract Painting

Acrylic abstract art

Shapes and Lines

Other elements also are used to evoke emotions. For example, square shape and rectangles can portray strength and stability, while circles and ellipses may represent continuous smooth movement. Shapes and lines can be natural or man-made, regular or irregular, 2D or 3D, geometric or organic, positive or negative, decorative or symbolic, representational or abstract.

Abstract art attempt to stimulate an emotional response by arranging the visual elements in a harmonic or dynamic configuration much in the same way that a musician uses sound, pitch, tempo and silence to compose a piece of music. A musical analogy has often been used to help describe the effect of abstract art on the viewer.

As you can see, the representational artist has a far greater degree of freedom with both the natural and fabricated worlds accessible as the source of their inspiration, but the abstract artist has the unique opportunity to create something that has never been seen before.

Abstract Painting Journey

Colourful abstract painting

The process of abstract painting is a journey that I experience every time when I start painting. As a matter of fact, the journey starts at the time when I am planning to paint. The abstract painting journey offers and provides a complete distraction from the real world we live in, a distraction from our routines, an opportunity to just let go and be prepared to enter another dimension of inner self, at least momentary.

Abstract painting is a way to connect with our own self by ourself. There is no one to tell you how to do it, no rules, no restrictions. The journey does not necessarily have to have a meaning or explanation. It does not tell a story, but it encourages engaging with our feelings.

So it is entirely up to the viewer to decide whether they can connect with the painting and allow it to provoke any individual emotions or meaning. It’s the viewer’s own emotions and own translation, not the artist’s. Not everyone experiences the same emotions when viewing abstract paintings. And that I find absolutely fascinating about abstract paintings.

No two journeys are ever the same but they all share deeper contentment and utter satisfaction full of joy that is really hard to describe with words. You go through many emotional feelings but I have never experienced sadness or any negative feelings.

The Fascination with Abstract Art


It really begins with the its definition. There are so many discussions and arguments about the definition of abstraction. I am not going to go through the details as I am sure it will only trigger more discussions about how accurate can we describe and define abstract art. But to me, it is simply a visual language of free expression that uses shapes, forms, lines, texture and colours to create a composition not depicted from the world around us.

The key here is the freedom of creating the artwork and the freedom to the viewer to interpret it the way they feel. There are no rules, restrictions or limitation to both creating or viewing the artwork.

This is a language that uses ‘feelings’ as its interpreter – without the use of feelings I believe it would be more difficult to create or view abstract art.

Origin of Abstract Art

This is another topic that has received many varied opinions. It is almost impossible to determine when the abstract art emerged and it is also difficult to point out to one or more artists that could be considered as “founding fathers” of the abstract art movement. The view among experts are different as some believe Wassily Kandinsky was the firs to paint abstract in his painting Picture of the Circle in 1911. Others believe works by Whistler, James McNeill and even Claude Monet can be considered as abstract artists in the 19th Century.

The Ten Biggest, No 7 1907 - Hilma af Klint

Some also consider that Hilma af Klint (1862-1944), a Swedish woman, might claim the title of being the first abstract artist.

Abstract Art Debates

One of the most fascinating features of abstract art is it does not have a single meaning or a single story assigned to it. The artist is free to create and the viewer is free to interpret a meaning. Each piece of abstract art may carry limitless meanings or as many meanings as its individual viewer chooses.

Perhaps abstract art seeks to represent an image of not the material world but the inner feelings or the spiritual.

When abstract art emerged in the late 19th century many of the leading artists of the time chose this style as perhaps a rebellious departure from figurative art. They used colours, shapes, forms and line to create art with few or no reference to the natural world. Abstract artists sought to explore the worlds of their imagination, freedom of expression and follow their desire to unleash spontaneity through their chosen medium. Over the years many artists, historians and critics have expressed many different views about abstract art.

Abstract art continues to trigger different views and opinions from those of who appreciate it and also those who claim “a 5-year old could have done that”, and the same will continue for many years to come.

Abstract art can challenge the human’s perception of the visual expression of the unfamiliar.

Could we be actually painting our own feelings when creating non-representational art?

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