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Chilean artist Roberto Matta's 1944

Roberto Matta’s 1944 “La revolte des contraires,” oil on canvas

This is a blog about painting, especially abstract painting.  It’s also about reality.

When considering abstract painting the question of reality is often raised.  The enduring view (“…the birth of abstract art some ninety years or so ago immediately prompted many doubts about its artistic viability”[1]) is that in order to be taken seriously as a work of art a painting should be an accurate rendering of “reality”, and that most abstract paintings require limited technical ability, or could be “painted by a 5 year old”.

However, when we begin to analyse what reality is we see that its definition varies depending upon whether it is viewed culturally, philosophically, spiritually, artistically, mathematically, or scientifically.  In fact, the closer we look into reality the less tangible it becomes.  Reality is broken down into separate ideas in the same way that an abstract painting visually breaks down objective reality into simple forms.  Is it then more “real” to create an abstract painting than it is to simply simulate observed physical reality?

In each case, perception plays a significant role, for reality varies according to its’ relationship with self.  When we thus consider reality as an abstract concept we encounter more questions than answers.  What does the ambiguous nature of reality mean for art? Does reality in art even exist? And, when we ask the question “What is art?” are we really asking “What is reality?”


[1]   Kramer, H.  Does abstract art have a future? The New Criterion.  2002; 21: 9.
Available from: http://www.newcriterion.com/articles.cfm/abstractartfuture-kramer-1842

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