Abstract vs Realism – Which is better?

©2009 Cathy Read - Order in chaos - 35x25cm Mixed Media on paper

Are you a fan of abstract art?

Or maybe you prefer something more understandable. You like art that you can tell what it is?

When I started out as an artist Representational Art was my thing

Happily, creating realistic portraits and scenes  Like this one of Henton Mission Room at the marvelous Chiltern Open Air Museum – a museum of buildings no less.

©2010 Cathy Read-Henton Mission Room-31x21cm- Watercolour on paper
©2010 Cathy Read-Henton Mission Room-31x21cm- Watercolour on paper

I have a confession to make, I used to hate abstract art.

Understanding abstracts, especially paintings such a Guernica, was a struggle. I was quite happy to state my opinion that abstracts were rubbish. Until someone explained to me what Picaso was trying to demonstrate. Suddenly it clicked.

How can you paint intangible things like emotion without abstraction?

Sure, you can paint people in emotional states, but not emotion itself. So I started experimenting with my own abstracts, like this one.

©2009 Cathy Read - Order in chaos - 35x25cm Mixed Media on paper
©2009 Cathy Read – Order in chaos – 35x25cm Mixed Media on paper

The more I did, the more I realised representation is too traditional for me. Don’t get me wrong, representational looks good. It’s just restricted. You either paint what is there, create a photograph like realism. Or you develop a degree of abstraction and give yourself more freedom to express yourself. You are free to break the rules. Although, don’t break too many at once, and not all of them.

The best abstracts still have some rules behind them.

The rules may come from way outside the box, but rules create structure which can help define an abstract

Now I love abstracts. They provide greater opportunities for my creativity, not because I can’t create realistic images. But because I can add a new dimension to the images Realism informs the choices for my abstracts, So I continue to develop my understanding of the representational.

What do you think about Abstract Art?

A load of old tosh or a new dimension for expression?

Let me know in the comments.

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0 Replies to “Abstract vs Realism – Which is better?”

  1. Hi Cathy

    Thanks for visiting my blog Lend Me Your Eyes and becoming a fan! I appreciate it.

    With regard to your dilemma, I feel your pain like you cannot imagine dear. I’ve been fighting with this exact issue for a few years now. But it seems to be a bit easier for me, since I don’t gravitate that often to realism, unless, like you mentioned, I’m looking to have it inform an abstract piece I’m working on.

    All I can say is that, yes, you have to pay the bills, but be careful and don’t get trapped into creating work that doesn’t satisfy you. As long as you’re making work that you feel is strong, whether abstract or realistic in style, you are indeed doing what you love. Which is pretty cool, if I may so. 🙂

    1. Thanks for the reassurance Antonio! I think I’m planning to keep doing what I love, I just need to find others who love it too!

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