Approaches to Abstraction

What do I want to express?

I have been exploring the idea of portraying the concept of time visually. This came from my project of digitizing 25 years of my 35mm film archive, particularly the hundreds of rolls of film from my Brother Michael project. Mike is my older brother who is autistic, low functioning and nonverbal.

Digitizing each roll of film I took during my trips to see Mike and scanning each frame in the order it was taken, triggered memories of being there at the time. I was transported back to that time.

The past holds a lot of demons for me, particularly with regard to Mike. He was unreachable in any meaningful way. The idea that I may have missed some kind of coded communication is a theme that draws me to explore the concrete evidence I have, namely my photographs and writings from the past.

Klee and Kandinsky

To portray time in visual terms, abstraction is necessary. The art of Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky represent two different approaches to abstraction.

Klee noted that the artist plays a major role in creating form. He once said that drawing is the same as ‘taking a pencil point for a walk.’ Its path depends on the motivation of the person guiding the pencil. He also said that an artist’s duty is to ‘make visible’. I take that to mean an artist is obligated to realize ideas in his or her head.

On the other hand, Kandinsky’s approach was essentially rule-based, in which he associated universal meaning to pictorial elements, such as color and shape. His book, Concerning the Spiritual in Art outlined this philosophy.

Today’s watercolor experiment:

The watercolor experiment in my post, Time’s Arrows was the result of an intellectual exercise based on my thought experiment in Re-Inspection of Time. The art of yesterday’s post, Divide, was a bit less ‘rule based’, but was built on the same premise.

My aspiration is to gain a firm understanding of color theory, philosophy and practice, but “take my paintbrush for a walk”, guided by the subconscious artist in me.

Today’s composition began as an actual experiment. I used a toothpick to apply a drips of blue calligraphy ink to wet watercolor paper. I loved the way it dispersed. I also dripped and painted with other inks, glazed some of the paper with yellow watercolor pigment and tilted the paper to achieve interesting gradations of color.

Watercolor and Ink: Abstract Play with Colors

9″x12″ 140# Cold Pressed Watercolor Block

I had no ideas in mind at all. Today’s composition was just play.

I hope I can play with a purpose to express my connection with the past and imagine or uncover any connection I may have had with my brother Mike.

6 thoughts on “Approaches to Abstraction

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