Abstraction Versus Purpose
per·spec·tive - a particular attitude toward or way of regarding something; a point of view
I am often asked what I mean when I say that I attempt to create a piece of art that is both an abstraction and a purpose. Abstraction has no bounds. It can be a flight of fancy, where the lines of meaning become blurred. Purpose on the other hand is concrete. This is a flower. That is a woman hanging wash. Our mind snaps to the immediate understanding of a piece of art that has purpose. Our mind wanders with abstraction, it confuses us sometimes and makes us create our own meanings.
Some artists can merge the two, but it is not an easy task. Some do it without even realizing it, while others must think through it carefully. Jackson Pollock was a true abstractionist. In each swirl of his paint everything was left to the imagination of the viewer. In contrast Renoir was the epitome of a realist. With every stroke he could recreate life with perfect purpose. In the middle is Picasso, who could do it all. While much of his work is abstract in nature, his skill level was that he could create purpose just as easily as abstraction and often merged the two together.
When I begin to envision creating a piece of art, my mind cautiously explores both of these. Because my work is both sculpture and painting and hangs on a wall, I want the viewer at first glance to see an utter abstraction that confuses, yet draws the eye with its intricacies. I want the viewer to say to themselves "what in the hell am I looking at". When they approach, I want the purpose to snap into perspective and cause the viewer to realize that this is no hodgepodge of shapes and colors but something more intricate.
Typically with a sculpture, it is approached from an angle that you can walk around and grasp its delicacies. With a painting, you face it head on. People are not used to sculpture that hangs. It throws off their perspective and this works to my advantage.
I doubt I'm typing anything that most artists do not inherently understand, but I think many of us function at such a subliminal level when we create that we do not notice when we do things. I've tried very hard to understand my processes and I feel that weighing abstraction and purpose is truly one of the most important aspects of what I do.
Here are some examples that I think represent the concept better than I can describe it.
In Struggles of the Lost Man, the cacophony of color creates an abstraction that has fluidity and almost a sense of looking into the heart of a fire when viewed from afar. The pewter frame with its curls of emerald green focus the viewer to the center of the abstraction. Upon closer view you realize that there is a lot more here than meets the eye. Their is both past, present and future represented here. I attempted to recreate the feeling of ancient cave art. The pewter frame is actually the fragile rock walls, the emerald green is mold and decay within the cave. The cave drawings represent the AIDS epidemic, with the hand reaching past a molecule of the virus with death on either side to grasp a line of medication at the top.
There is multiple purpose here, that cannot really be grasped on first view from across a room. It is an eerie and haunting vision, but to the eye it is abstract until you come closer and examine it and learn first hand what the images conveyed mean.
If you want to view the piece close up and from varying angles, click this link:
I am not really sure I am explaining this well and perhaps no explanation isn't really needed because as artists, even self taught we learn about abstraction early on in development, but perhaps it will help someone to look at it in a new way.
Archipelago of Lost Souls is one of my favorite examples of abstraction versus purpose. Seen from afar this piece is truly abstract but has a simple geometry to it that catches the eye and loses it in the swirl of blues, greens and silvers. When approached the perspective jumps into view and the blues shimmer into heaving waves around an ancient volcanic caldera that forms white sand beaches of small islands. Using hot wax to create the waves I was able to raise and peak them lending movement to the whole piece.
If you want to see close ups and angles of this piece, click here:
In the end, I suppose its all in the eye of the viewer. But the process we go through when creating art I would like to think gives new perspective to what it means to be an artist. Perhaps I over-think things, and many of the concepts here are done at such a subliminal level that I really have to think through it carefully to even express it. But I think it is a crucial part of my art and something I've only developed over time. My early work is not nearly as representative of this concept and sometimes its fun still to just create something that is pretty and does not have multiple layers of meaning, but that's not where I am evolving as an artist and I doubt I'll ever go back.