In my post from last week, I wrote that I’m attracted to off-kilter ceramics, and abstract or non-representational art in general. Some might call it wabi-sabi (imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete) or other descriptors might be unrefined, confusing or childlike. Maybe I’m using all these labels to better describe how some might view abstract art. Or maybe I’m sticking my foot in my mouth. The point is, though, that I like abstract art. Very much.
And as it turns out, abstract art might just be good for your brain! In an article I read recently about abstract art – “This is your brain on art: A neuroscientist’s lessons on why abstract art makes our brains hurt so good,” published last December by Salon – the author writes: “In abstract painting, elements are included not as visual reproductions of objects, but as references or clues to how we conceptualize objects. In describing the world they see, abstract artists not only dismantle many of the building blocks of bottom-up visual processing by eliminating perspective and holistic depiction, they also nullify some of the premises on which bottom-up processing is based. We scan an abstract painting for links between line segments, for recognizable contours and objects, but in the most fragmented works, such as those by Rothko, our efforts are thwarted.”
He continues, “Thus the reason abstract art poses such an enormous challenge to the beholder is that it teaches us to look at art — and, in a sense, at the world — in a new way. Abstract art dares our visual system to interpret an image that is fundamentally different from the kind of images our brain has evolved to reconstruct. We want to impose a rational explanation onto the work, and abstract and minimalist art resists this. It makes our brains work in a different, harder, way at a subconscious level.”
According to the author, looking at formal art, or representational/realistic art, is a form of passive reading. Our eyes see the realistic object, our brain gets what it expects, and knows/understands how to handle what the eye sees.
Abstract art “makes our brains hurt, but in all the right ways, for abstract art forces us to see, and think, differently.” So go ahead, feast your eyes on some abstract art and let your brain hurt. It’s good for you! Below are photos of two of my original abstract paintings. The Metropolitan Museum of Art has a small online collection of abstract art. Or take a look at some gorgeous abstract ceramic pieces here. Enjoy!