Art Terms: Abstract vs Abstraction

"Aliyah" by Patricia C Vener, ©2013

“Aliyah” by Patricia C Vener, ©2013, the artist

It’s art but is it abstract or an abstraction? The art world seems to use these two terms interchangeably but should they really mean the same thing?

A work of art that is “Abstract” depicts something that has no basis in visual reality. It is not (recognizably) derived from anything found in the natural (i.e., real) universe.

A work of art that is an “Abstraction,” on the other hand, is based on some real visual as its inspiration (however no longer recognizable that may be).

Clearly, there is room for some intersection. The artist may have been inspired by, say, a violin but whatever is on the canvas has absolutely no relationship to any violin real or imagined.

You probably notice my constraint of “visual” above. This is because an abstract work may be representational of a sound or scent that only the artist knows about. In this case the desired response is not that the observer recognize whatever sound the artist heard but recognize the emotional response the artist had. (Yet, I think it might be interesting, as an artist, to attempt to visually expound upon a sound so that the observer recognizes the impact of this sound at least.)

What do you think of when someone says, “abstract art?”

2 Responses to “Art Terms: Abstract vs Abstraction”

  1. Sari Grove Says:

    Religion…The roots of trying to avoid likenesses stem from religion…I always think of religion when I see non-representational work because I know that…Rothko…Especially…But it crosses culture & history…Each art scene has avoided likeness in its own way…Flattening, cropping,cartooning,animal heads on people,geometry…

  2. Patricia C Says:

    Interesting. Is it that they are avoiding likenesses or that they just don’t see the point to real likenesses?