Abstraction vs. Representation

transits 65, photograph

“Why not acknowledge that all representation is an act of abstraction and that all abstraction must be conveyed through the act of representation and be done with it?”

– Peter London, No More Secondhand Art

And with that London puts to rest one of the ongoing debates in the art world! And he’s right, of course.

The process of taking an actual object and depicting it as an art piece involves a complex act of abstraction. All sorts of decisions go into what to include or exclude and ultimately the art is not as “complete” as the real object. Which is what can make it more interesting to us because we are invited to react to the unique way the artist has decided to abstract the reality into his/her work.

Then there are many qualities which do not manifest in the world as any specific object: intimacy, longing, consummation, delicacy, rarity, etc. The artist has to invent images to portray these immaterial qualities. What is abstract, without reference to a specific object in time and place, must be given form through an act of representation.

So every work of art has elements of abstraction and representation in it. With this understanding, perhaps the artist will not feel compelled to identify with one camp or the other and needlessly limit their mode of expression.

In fact, your willingness to explore both sides of this coin will expand your ability to create your world and your place within it, and that’s what it’s all about!

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3 responses to “Abstraction vs. Representation

  1. The best choice who exercises power with honor works internally, beginning with himself.
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