©2014 - Cathy Read - Work in Progress Greenwich Geometry - Watercolour and Acrylic -40 x 50 cm

Architectural Abstract Paintings – Greenwich bound.

Did you know Abstract paintings are often based on reality?

Most people see abstract paintings as a series of random marks, but if you spend any time looking you’ll realise many are more representational than you imagine.  You could argue that any form of painting is an abstract in that it has taken an object and made something of it that’s not the real thing. Depending in what you define as a “real thing”. A photograph might look like a building but you can’t live in it. So which is real?  They both exist in reality but you couldn’t pass the photograph off as a genuine building.

Google’s definition of Abstract is “relating to or denoting art that does not attempt to represent external reality, but rather seeks to achieve its effect using shapes, colours, and textures.” That’s one of many definitions. The trouble is, there’s a very fluid line between reality and abstraction and it could fuel many hours of debate, which I don’t have time for here. Another time, perhaps.

Personally I waver between the 2 ends of the spectrum.

Abstracts allow you to play with rules and perceptions whereas the more representational angle paints what you see.

Abstracts allow you to take an element and exaggerate it. You are not confined to colour, orientation, scale etc.

So why base abstract paintings on reality?

Abstracts are a way to look at reality in a new way. People tend to ignore the routine, the mundane. Walk down a city street and you might notice a taxi or a letter box if you’re looking but chances are you won’t see the ornate window bracket holding the shop sign you walk under for the 100th time. Or the pattern on the brass handle you open to the shop you buy a paper in. The boot scraper left in the wall next to a house on the corner. The patterns formed by the roof supports at your usual station. You might notice them occasionally, but rarely daily, if at all. So why not take these discoveries and make them the centre of attention?

So how do you turn reality into abstract?

An image, a set of rules and some imagination and experimentation.

I start of with a picture,

I select an area or angle view which I translated it into a tracing. This was taken underneath Greenwich Dome or O2 arena as it’s now known. At this point I can still go more representational. The structure on the left is the bottom edge of the Dome. The right hand rocket like feature looks like it belongs in a science fiction movie. An alien rocket about to launch perhaps? These are dotted around the base of the Dome. I think they are linked to heating and/or air conditioning.


Some pictures are more demanding than others.

The background on this had me cross eyed for a while, I’m sure you can see why. That building is wearing what looks like the architectural equivalent of a Hawian shirt. Yet I like it, in spite of the headache it has caused. I mask the pencil and then start painting freely.

Once the colour is added it begins to make more sense, or less depending on your perspective…

Although it’s still baffling, there’s no distinct overall pattern, just lots of repeating ones that morph into new ones. I allowed the base of the turbine to morph into an alien creation. Reminds me of HG Wells War of the Worlds

©2014 - Cathy Read - Work in Progress Greenwich Geometry - Watercolour and Acrylic -40 x 50 cm
©2014 – Cathy Read – Abstract painting in Progress Greenwich Geometry – Watercolour and Acrylic -40 x 50 cm

With the masking remove, the finished piece looks like this.

©2014 - Cathy Read - Greenwich Geometry - Watercolour and Acrylic -40 x 50 cm
©2014 – Cathy Read – Greenwich Geometry – Watercolour and Acrylic -40 x 50 cm

Of course I could have painted if differently.

I could have:

  • Changed the colours
  • Switched the darks and light
  • Picked out two contrasting colours and alternated them
  • Placed bold outline around adjacent shapes unconnected to what was there,
  • Added a simple, solid colour shape in the centre

The options are endless, all you need is to let your imagination run wild.

And if you’re struggling with that, you might like to check out my other abstracts in the shop.

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