I was over a good artist friend’s home last night, when i had one of those A-ha! experiences. I was looking at a wonderfully painted realistic scene of a Colorado ski trail in the winter at dusk. The light was magical, presenting the most subtle pink glow upon the scene. I could almost feel the cold and the approach of sunset. I have seen this painting several times and it is truly one of my favorites. It’s amazing I was thinking these thoughts when i had my “A-ha” experience. i realized that i had the same reaction to this work of art every time i saw it. The lovely pink glow, the cold, the approach of sunset. Yes, I felt I was almost there. I also realized that i never saw the work differently, the experience of viewing it was always the same, my response varied little. I never found myself looking further into the piece. I felt all those wonderful things that the painting evoked in me, but it stopped at this experience.
It was then I realized why I love non-objective painting so much. When i look at an interesting (to me) abstract, the experience of viewing it is never the same. It’s always different and unique, and the more i encounter the work, the more the art expands. I may see something in the 3rd or 4th viewing, that i never even noticed in my first encounter. I find myself continually looking deeper into the work, searching. I begin to notice subtle passages of color, shape, texture or value. I am continually going beyond the surface, I notice the “layering” of paint, subtle suggestions of the painting beneath the painting (how many abstract paintings have 2 or more “paintings” beneath the final statement). I may even find a combination of shapes that “remind” me of something realistic.
All of these observations by the viewer (me) make the experience a continually growing one, rich with variety and discovery. I think this has to do with the principle of closure. We are always trying to identify what we are looking at. How many times have you looked at clouds that remind you of something realistic, or the “man in the moon”? We’ve all had similar experiences, and when we look at non-objective paintings, this is exactly what we do every time we encounter the work. And, the experience is always different.
I once wrote a small statement under one of my abstractions, it said “The secret of abstract art: Ask not what I am, but rather what can I be”.