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Abstract Art and Abstract Realism – is it Real Art?

abstract art example

Some people love abstract art, others hate it. Setting aside personal preference, all art needs to satisfy certain criteria to be considered real art. But exactly what is abstract art and abstract realism, and is it real art?

What is Abstract Art?

The concept of ‘abstract’ implies something that doesn’t physically exist, like an idea, or a distorted depiction of something physical. The online magazine Contemporary Art Issue (CAI), defines what ‘good’ abstract art is:

‘Good abstract art distinguishes itself from the masses by creating high-quality art relevant to its era. Good abstract art is recognizable due to a unique and personal technique or visual language, or art that distinguishes itself by the manner of its subject matter or conceptual foundation.’

Despite the many different opinions of what abstract art actually is, all abstract artworks have these things in common:

  • A non-representational depiction of the subject
  • Use of color, composition, and gestural marks defining a strong theme or emotion
  • The personal style of the artist

5 Reasons Why People Love Abstract Art

Composition A, Piet Mondrian, 1923, Public Domain
Composition A, Piet Mondrian, 1923, Public Domain
  • Message and symbolism resonates with the viewer
  • The style and materials are unique and interesting
  • The colors, forms, and composition are compelling
  • It’s pleasant to look at
  • All of the above

5 Reasons Why People Hate Abstract Art

Composition IV, Vassily Kandinsky, 1911, Public Domain
Composition IV, Vassily Kandinsky, 1911, Public Domain
  • They don’t know what they’re looking at
  • There’s no intellectual or emotional enjoyment from looking at the artwork
  • They wonder how many milliseconds it took the artist to put marks on the paper
  • They think any little kid can create something just as good if not better
  • All of the above

What is Abstract Realism?

As the term suggests, abstract realism is a combination of abstraction and realism. The article Abstract Realism – A Complete Beginner’s Guide has a very good definition of abstract realism:

‘Abstract realism is an art style that combines two completely contradictory styles of art: abstract expressionism and realism. The resulting artwork is both immediately identifiable as representing something or someone, while also taking advantage of abstract aesthetic and techniques in an effort to challenge or amplify one’s reaction.

Examples of Abstract Realism

November First, Andrew Wyeth
November First, Andrew Wyeth, 1950, Fair Use

An abstract realistic work of art has a recognizable subject where some or all of its parts are abstracted or suggested. In November First, by Andrew Wyeth, the subject is clearly recognizable. Using strong, directional brush strokes and blurring, Wythe beautifully depicts the strong wind blowing on the grasses.

Lotus and Herons, by Huang Yongyu
Lotus and Herons, Huang Yongyu, 1984, Fair Use

Lotus and Herons, by Huang Yongyu, leans very much toward abstraction. Nonetheless, the subject is identifiable even without knowing the title of the piece. Yongyu leaves much to our imagination which makes this piece interesting and fun to look at.

Are Abstract Art and Abstract Realism Real Art?

Art is one of those things that is extremely subjective. My like or dislike of an artwork or art form depends on my feelings, tastes, or opinions. However, for an artwork to actually be a work of art, it must be created with a plan similar to the steps I presented in How To Start a Drawing

Basic Criteria For a Work of Art to be Art

Whether an artwork is abstract, realistic, or a combination of the two, a well-executed work of art indicates that the artist chose a particular color scheme, and carefully considered composition and materials which best express the mood and feeling of the artwork.

Regardless of the art form, successful artists have a unique style that sets them apart from their contemporaries. These criteria make sure that their artwork has a unified look and feel, and that the artist planned the piece carefully. When thought and planning are an important component in the creation of a work of art, then yes, abstract art and abstract realism are real art.

The Oxford online dictionary defines art as:

‘The expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.’

The bottom line is that if a piece of art touches your heart or makes you think or feel something, then its art. Even if it’s just pleasant to look, the artist has created a work of art, ready to be enjoyed and appreciated.

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