Abstract Art: What Is It?

Most people (art lovers or not) will know of at least one famous classical abstract artist, even if they’re not entirely familiar with what abstract art actually is. If you’ve heard of Pollock, Kandinsky, Matisse, Mondrian, Klee or Rothko, then you’ll at least have an idea of what it is.

Image property of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY.

Work by Jackson Pollock (Image property of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY).

 

The term ‘abstract‘ in art refers to breaking away from depicting traditional objects, forms and figures.

Instead colour, texture and whatever ‘gestural marks’ the artists wants to use comes together to create a piece that is not based on a recognisable image.

It’s a bit of a general term; ‘abstract‘ can refer to art that depicts something like a view or a figure but in a more subtle and simplified way (but still using abstract techniques), or it can refer to a piece that is entirely abstract with no actual image or reality recognised in the piece. For example, both of these pieces are abstract:

 

 

Work by Catie Radney

Work by Catie Radney

 

Wassily Kandinsky, one of the most famous artists in modern abstract art, believed that abstract art is a perfect way to convey human emotions and ideas.

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Work by Wassily Kandinsky

 

Interpreting Abstract Art

Generally speaking, abstract art is the perfect way for an artist to express their feelings without having to paint them in a way that directly tells the viewer how or what they’re trying to portray.

This means the viewer can interpret it however they feel they relate to it – without feeling like they are being told how to interpret it. With no apparent figure or form involved (or a subtle shadow of an image) the viewer can really connect with the piece without any outside bias… it’s a beautiful thing!

And contrary to popular belief, it really is ok to like a piece of art just because it’s ‘pretty’… I’ve heard a couple of people say ‘art is meant to make you think, not just be pretty’. Personally, I don’t think it matters whether you think about it… it’s about whether you feel. And if you like something just because it makes you feel happy then good!

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Work by CBA

So if, like me, you’re a fan of colour, craziness and general artistic frustration expressed in the form of textures, drips, splatters and organised mess then you’ll love these artists!

(… and with so many amazing abstract-inspired street artists out there, I’ll definitely be writing a part 2! Any suggestions for me to include, head over to the GK facebook page and let me know!) 


 

#1. Mafia Tabak

Mafia Tabak was one of my recent discoveries – I love his work.

He uses a more muted colour palette which is cool because a lot of abstract artists tend to be really free with their colours and go crazy, incorporating the brightest colours they can find (I’m not complaining, I absolutely love that type of work!!).

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However, this muted palette works really well with the intriguing arrangement of lines and shapes that hint at words and images but don’t always quite show them…

In almost every piece you can see a hint of words poking through, and sometimes there’ll be a figure or a form within the piece, but on the whole, the overall look is pretty open to interpretation. It’s kind of hard to explain why his work appeals to me so much. It just looks raw, imperfect, and some kind of organised chaos. 😉

mafia-tabak

 

#2. Mr Jago

Mr Jago’s work is bright, bold and beautiful and full of rich colours… bright pinks, vibrant yellows, rich blues… all arranged in a way that reminds me of a nebula… that’s melting.

canvas4

A lot of my favourite artists (who work on canvas) create work like this and it looks incredibly beautiful (and a lot of his work is on canvas) – but the effect on a huge wall is somewhat even more magical… it’s like you could easily be surrounded by or step into a colourful dream.

Mr Jago has a background in illustration and a deep love for graffiti, and is a founding member of the Scrawl Collective.

 

#3. Elian Chali

Elian Chali’s work focuses around primary colours – arranging them in a way that is simplicity itself, but portrayed in an abstract way. His work is very graphic-designy (not a technical term, haha) – it looks like it’s been sketched digitally before translating it to canvas or wall (after looking at more and more of his work I found out this is actually how he does it).

He does also create canvases and other smaller works but I find his bigger pieces amazing because of how clear, clean and crisp the colours and shapes look. Really stunning work.

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eian-chali

 

#4. Nelio

Some of Nelio’s work reminds me of Mafia Tabak’s (#1) because of the colour palettes used, and the shapes (and arrangement of them) in the pieces.

Nelio experiments with a few different abstract techniques; he creates huge pieces that remind me of abstract oil paintings on canvas, but he also creates pieces that look more loosely geometric-inspired; he seems to be an artist who loves to experiment. This is an artist who doesn’t limit himself to one particular style.

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The way he sometimes incorporates illustrative techniques and other styles is also really interesting, and makes for some fine viewing. This is also someone I encourage you to check out on Instagram – he has so many amazing pieces of work!

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 #5. Sten Lex

I know not everyone’s a fan of busy, colourful abstract pieces so here’s an artist who creates black and white, sketchy pieces with a beautiful geometric feel. Now everyone I mention in this article has some incredible skill and talent but I think Sten’s work is really, really standout due to the sheer scale of the pieces.

sten

Creating lines that look so clear yet so sketchy – as if he’s taken a sketch in fineliner from his sketch book and scaled it up to put on a wall… the sheer skill involved in recreating something like this on a huge wall is nothing short of amazing. Seriously mindblowing stuff.

st2en

Also intriguing is his canvas work. He says they’re hand-cut stencil pieces – and yet the attention to detail and beautiful effect of the shredded paper is like nothing I’ve seen before! I encourage you to check out his Instagram because it’s full of amazing photos of his work.

lex

 

#6. Camille Walala

Colourful, geometric and reminiscent of pop art (ok, probably not entirely abstract art but open to interpretation nonetheless), Camille’s work is just so fun! Looking at her work just makes me happy… it’s playful and full of clashing patterns, and when mixed with such bright and bold colours it just seems to radiate good vibes. Love it!

 

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#7. Kaso

Kaso describes his work as ‘abstract graffiti‘. Bright, bold, fun, colourful… there’s so many ways to describe his work but I think the word ‘awesome‘ gives it justice 😉

Some of his work, like the one below, reminds me of cartoon characters, I think because of the mix of circles (that look like eyes) and other shapes (that to me, form faces).

Again, abstract art is entirely open to interpretation by the viewer, so this may be what I see… but you might see something different 🙂

kaso_znojmo_2009-713912

Snorlax on a sunlounger? / Source

Experimenting with abstract shapes, lettering and colour, his work has elements of geometric design, psychedelic patterns, and of course that rough, urban edge derivative from his love of, and background in, graffiti.

What do you think? Who’s your favourite? Leave a comment over on the GK Facebook page!


**All photos taken from the respective artists Instagram accounts unless stated otherwise. Click on the artist titles to go to their accounts! **


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Written by Cosmo

Cosmo

Hi I’m Cosmo, street art & graff lover, artist, designer, writer & full-time street rat…

I run the • cosmic traveller • blog and also blog here on Graffiti Kings!
Follow me on Instagram @cosmictraveller_uk