Abstract and nonconceptual: there is a different between an abstract and nonconceptual work of art. An abstract has some recognition of the subject. For example Picasso, no matter how many penises (is that the plural form of penis? Eh, you don’t have to answer that.), twisted faces, or hidden initials of current girlfriends, the viewer can still recognize the subject. With nonceptual image, the view has no symbolic cues or familiar shapes to the subject. Bauhaus’s famous teacher, Wisely Kandinsky, made it his life’s goal to mark the canvas with shapes and lines representing nothing with in the real world.
So once upon a time, I tried my brush at nonconceptual art. It was an opportunity to experiment new techniques and push out of my comfort level. And I push myself into a pigpen. Not how much a fought or serenaded the paint, nothing was coming out good. All of the paintings were muddy and soulless. I couldn’t figure it out.
Long after my attempted into manifesting the worldless world, Gerald Griffin presented a lecture about composition. He argued a good composition should be strong at all sides, not just the side it’s originally for. Course, being a plain air class, he showed this example with a landscape.
Ignore the ‘symbols’ of landscape. Don’t see trees or bushes or sand or rivers. See shapes, textures, colors, and movements. Maybe even flip around the image around to make it easier. It turns the landscape into something strange and unfamiliar, yet still beautiful. I came across an awesome epiphany: landscape and a nonconceptual drawings are the same.
So wrong; I was approaching it all wrong.
The problem I was having with the nonconceptual is I treated it like it’s a flat thing covered in splashes and lines of color. Both subjects are ‘bout creating an environment –not something flat, but something with depth. With this new idea in my head, I tried doing nonconceptual again, but this time with the idea I’m painting an environment, not wall paper.
Yeah, totally figuring it out now.
Images by Thomas Cole, Li Cheng, vivstock2, and sheepdog1