How We Perceive Abstract Art - Deepstash

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Viewing abstract art causes notable cognitive changes

How We Perceive Abstract Art

How We Perceive Abstract Art

A new study that may be good news for both kinds of art lovers states that abstract art alters our minds cognitive state, causing measurable cognitive changes in the viewer.

Many people think modern, abstract art isn’t real art, and there are also others who deeply understand and appreciate it.

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Defining Art
Defining Art
  • Art does not have a universal definition, though it is generally believed that it is an intentional and conscious creation of something that requires imagination and skill.
  • It can be thought of as a symbol of what it means to be human, manifested in physical form for others to see and interpret.
  • The word ‘art’ originates from the Latin word ‘ars’ that means skill or craft.
  • Art, like beauty, is subjective, and its valuation and definition changes as time goes by.
  • To understand art one has to see it’s essential nature and the social impact or importance it generates.
Defining Art Through History
  • From the 11th century until the end of the 17th century, the definition of art was anything that was done with expertise, with the result of knowledge and practice.
  • The Romantic period of the 18th century, beauty became the main criteria for defining good art. Nature, spirituality and free expression were sought after and well received.
  • The 19th Century started the Avant-garde art movement, with art becoming real, modern, futuristic and surreal. Whatever the definitions, the originality of art stands out as a time-tested measure, with new genres and manifestations like performance art, digital art, and electronic art.
Philosophy of Art
  • Art as Representation or Mimesis. Representation of art as an imitation or copying became the mainstream meaning of art in Greece. Plato first developed the idea of art as “mimesis,” which, in Greek, means copying or imitation. How immaculately it replicated the original subject became the measure of its value.
  • Art as Expression of Emotional content. Dramatic, sublime and heartfelt art becomes a way to express oneself during the Romantic movement , with audience response becoming key to the valuation of the content. The emotions that were felt when the art was witnessed became its barometer for success.
  • Art as Form. Formal qualities of art became influential in the 18th century, with the principles of art and design, like balance, rhythm, harmony and unity became as important as the content of the work of art.
Abstract Art: Many Shades And Hues
Abstract Art: Many Shades And Hues

Visually different from figurative art, abstract art came in the early 20th century and used colours, lines, forms and shapes to create unseen compositions, with little or faint relation with the outside world.

It expanded upon the artist’s freedom of expression, imagination, inner turmoil, spirituality and spontaneity.

Abstract Art: Contradictory Beliefs

Many historians and artists throughout the century have had contradictory opinions and beliefs about abstract art.

Some people find abstract art the true original expressions, and figurative art being a mere imitation of reality. Others call it a hidden reality, where traces of figurative art are removed and ‘abstracted’ to stoke the imagination.

Pablo Picasso
Pablo Picasso

"“There is no abstract art. You must always start with something. Afterwards, you can remove all traces of reality.”"

Why we like art

Art is most exciting when it creates states of psychological conflict, confusion, or dissonance.

While in other circumstances, such an onslaught might make us run a mile, with art, we are held transfixed.

Visual indeterminacy

It occurs when we are presented with something that we don't immediately recognize. It creates a degree of cognitive dissonance that may be frustrating or even unpleasant.

For example, seeing a vague shape in the corner of a room that might be a cat or a bag. A second look is needed to satisfy our curiosity.

Color conflicts

Complementary colors lie opposite one another on the spectrum. For example, red complements blue, yellow complements violet.

When complementary colors are placed in close proximity, it is apt to cause conflict and disturb the eyes. Used subtly, it can make our eyes dance to a discordant tune.