Writing About Abstract Art

Barcelona Dreaming oil on canvas 37 X 63″

Finding Meaning in Abstract Painting

As Interpreted by the Artist, the Viewer, and the Writer

Written Review by

Linda Bigness

The articles in this review represent different positions on how viewers, critics, and artists interpret meaning in modern and abstract art.


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Linda Bigness is an internationally exhibited artist who maintains a gallery/studio in Syracuse, New York. Her work has been exhibited in several prestigious solo and group shows that have involved notable jurors such as art critic Clement Greenberg, Ivan Karp, director of OK Harris Gallery in NYC, and Tom Piche, director of the Daum Museum of Contemporary Art. In addition, Bigness’ large scale paintings are often selected and commissioned for corporate and residential clients, including the Turning Stone Resort, Merrill Lynch Corporation, Haylor, Freyer and Coon, and Bausch and Lomb. She continues to exhibit professionally at several venues with artwork featured frequently at the Nan Miller Gallery in Rochester, NY. Presently she is working on her latest book and exhibition about abstract art and the contemporary processes used by working artists today. Part of the research for this book is taken from the workshops she teaches and her oil painting and mixed media collage experience. For over 30 years Bigness has used her expertise to share with others the unique beauty and processes of her chosen medium through writing, teaching and professional exhibits. Her first book “Paint It, Tear It, Create It” offered the reader insight into visual abstract thinking through the process of collage into painting. She continues to explore the abstract through surface manipulation using encaustics and oil and is currently working on a new series, the “Journey Stones Revisited,” a reflection upon her extensive travels throughout the United States and Europe.

One thought on “Writing About Abstract Art”

  1. This is a wonderful essay on Abstract Art. I wanted to comment on this particular paragraph:

    Kuspit further explains the masks artists may use intentionally as ways of hiding emotion and events. The abstract paintings may evolve from and associate with the artist’s “world-weariness.” 20 Associations of this sort stop short of requiring the viewer to work out a hidden meaning within the abstract art. Rather the perception is masked by intentions of the artist and is not considered to be a part of the resulting “pure art.” However, he suggests that this purity of form, the absence of meaning should be viewed with reverence. This visual examination may reveal sacred meaning therefore giving permission to the viewer to perceive through their own consciousness the possibilities of the illusion of the image. In this way abstract painting becomes the suggestion by the artist giving permission to the viewer to find meaning.

    “This particular way of creating art, I think, was brought on by several outside occurrences, which affected the artist to go inward and bring forth some semblance of order, as well as voice to shout out to the public. For example the German expressionist movement that existed in the early 20th century. I am referring to artists E. L. Kirchner, Kathe Kollwitz and Max Beckmann, (the list is longer-I chose these three as they are important to me, as well as more known. perhaps to others. Therir work reflects the socio-political occurrences of their time as well as expressing their personal feelings by their choice of images that they choose.”

    I feel that this particular movement, which was not only in Germany, was the precursor to the more non representational abstract expressionism of Pollock. It pulls more intensely on his psychological personality and how he relates this to the viewer. Here I find that the surface is important and Greenberg of course was most probably afflicted by the curse of “closed mind set that is prevalent in most scholarly attempts of critique, which I think is prevalent in the attitude that if you change your premises and alter your opinions, beliefs etc, based on new evidence, you are considered weak and perhaps wishy washy. I am not of that opinion at all. I think that art is a journey of exploring the individual artists cognitive and perceptual aspects of personal reality foregoing perhaps consensual reality, by consensual reality I mean that which is explained by Newtonian Physics.

    Physics in particular quantum physics, hermeneutics, linguistics offer the artist a way in which they have a carte blanche approval for an expressionism that is an open set of the gestalt of their existence. Another words, what they paint is not just an individual deep expression, that is part but it is subsumed by the outward symbolic expression of the socio-historic age of the artist. This is sometimes, I feel, overlooked in many critics of art.

    I hope you continue to post more reviews, essays etc. Your are a gentle, hardworking, artist who really rocks me Linda! You inspire me to continue the struggle and the joy of creating.

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