Thoughts about abstraction
Yesterday I painted a study of hands that were doing a specific job: taking a fish and preparing it to be eaten. I’ve been thinking of how I would go about abstracting the image of these working hands. Working from my image, I could try to convey some of the following ideas: preparing food to eat; taking the life of a fish for sustenance; showing that many people think fish is what comes in shrink-wrapped plastic containers at the supermarket; or other narrative ideas.
However, I don’t think this is the way to go. In the case of the study below, I worked from a photograph that I took. There must have been some reason that I snapped the picture when I did; something that attracted me to the image before my eyes. I don’t think that I had a narrative in mind at the time. The visual image probably didn’t even get to my conscious mind. The composition attracted me. Therefore, it is reasonable to start with the image and not a backstory.
My starting point in the abstraction process therefore would be from a design standpoint. That is, I should begin by looking at the shapes in the study (of the fingers, the relationship between the hands and the fish or some visual element) and try simplifying them to a single line, two at most (as Paul Klee advises).
I must think about that during the next few days. In a way it is similar to the problem of abstracting gestures into meaningful lines. However, the message sent by images of working hands is a little different that that sent by expressive gestures. I’ll have to think about that too.