Abstraction of Form
The purpose of an artwork is to evoke an experience. The need for representational accuracy, however, is a matter of artistic interpretation. On one end of the scale we find art imitating reality, based on our visual experience; yet the other end of the spectrum shows us art as an experience in its own right that does not seek to imitate any real objects or phenomena. Hereby I will compare these various degrees of abstraction that have lead us to this point in art history.
While pure abstract art as such did not enter Western art scene before the beginning of 20th century, attempts to reinterpret what we thought we perceived began much earlier, even before the first appearance of Impressionism. Painter William Turner took the first big steps to pure expression. Turner’s dramatic landscapes convey extreme conditions through depth and motion: masses of swirling water, rising steam and smoke obscuring the view. Often only a few details remain of the subject itself — a shipwreck or city on fire. Interestingly, the lack of definition does not decrease the effect of the scenery, but rather amplifies it through directing the attention to the very essence of the experience. All else remains secondary.
Similarly, abstract expressionists traded representational art for absolute freedom in colour and form. Wassily Kandinsky, Jackson Pollock, Franz Kline and Robert Motherwell, provide examples of this very different in form, yet driven by the same motivation. Their art is produced through instinctive and uninhibited expression of visual perception. The result is perhaps the most unconditioned visual experience of art. Through the lack of semantic signs and signifiers, there is nothing but the sensory experience to lead us. The rational mind is left to wonder and reflect back on itself.