Abstract Art: To name or not to name.

English: abstract art 42x54in ,oil on canves-o...

English: abstract art 42x54in ,oil on canves-olej na plutnie. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I had a great response to my new art work “The Cave at the Shore” with many of you leaving messages and commenting on it. Lots of positive feedback, and more than enough to warm me up nicely and make me very pleased that I painted it. So  thank you to you all, not only for continuing to read my blog, but also for participating. However, amongst all the comments, one man wrote:

Thanks for naming this art work. So much for abstract-ism.

I wrote back briefly explaining why I thought it was right to do so. Later , I thought again about his words. Had I spoiled his experience of the art work by naming it? He clearly felt that the plot had been explained to him before he was given an opportunity to read the novel; he felt cheated, so I  decided that this subject deserves a longer explanation of the  “To name or not to name” question,  and here it is:

My own opinion is that it perfectly acceptable to name an abstract art work. It puts the piece into context, and I think that the viewing experience is enhanced when the viewer has an understanding of the emotions behind the art. Most of the time a title suggests itself to me, a name comes to mind as I paint;  as I am the one who created the forms and shapes  from my own experiences and emotions , I know what it is about. In the case of my painting ” The Cave at the Shore” it was  a visual representation of my feelings about being at the shore. I wrote about it here.  The abstract artist Harley Hahn also spoke of something similar  in his article about abstract art:

To truly appreciate a work of art, you need to see it as more than a single, isolated creation: there must be context. This is because art is not timeless. Every painting is created within a particular environment, and if you do not understand that environment, you will never be able to appreciate what the artist has to offer you.

You can read the full article about abstract art here. And this expresses exactly what I feel too. To really understand my abstract piece, you need to know about why it was painted, and what it was about. By giving my artwork a title, I am letting my viewers know that it was about the shore, about sand, still water, warmth, peace………. it was those  feelings which were expressed in the work.  Jay Meuser, who typically painted in the non-objective (abstract) style, wrote about his painting Mare Nostrum, “It is far better to capture the glorious spirit of the sea than to paint all of its tiny ripples.”  Oh, I sooooo agree.

I accept that there is a  style of abstract art which simply invites the viewer to make of it what they will, to enjoy the colours, the patterns for just what they are;  colours and  patterns, and the work of  Wassily Kandinsky comes close to this. But apart from this type of work I think there is something elitist about abstract artists who refuse to give their work a name, some going as far as simply labeling them as Art 1, Art 2 and so on. As if their work is too lofty, too important to be explained to the lowly viewer. Too fantastic to be understood by anyone  except the artist himself.

This goes against all that art means to me, abstract or otherwise. I paint for the same reason musicians compose; it gives me a way of expressing myself though a medium other than  language, but this does not mean that I want to keep it all to myself. I want to share it, and I want other people to know what my art is about, so I give it a name;  composers give their pieces names too, for much the same reason.

When I am painting a representational piece I simply name the object in the painting. Easy, and we all know where we are. Abstract art is always going to be more difficult to automatically know, and at times more difficult to understand. A flower is what it is, some will like it others will not, but we all  know that it is indeed a flower. It’s when I want to paint what that flower means to me, that things become more difficult. And when I decide to paint the meaning without the flower there at all then, for me, if I don´t give the painting a title, I would not be sharing it with you at all. It would just become another piece of abstract art that nobody except the artist herself could understand.

In my opinion, abstract art is about something. Is is the visual voice of our experience of the world around us and within us. When I paint an abstract piece, I want to share it with you, and I have every faith that whether you like that particular painting or not, you have the intelligence to understand it – but only if I bother to give it a title which tells you what it represents.

Enjoy your Saturday everyone.

Judy xxx

About judymorrisart

Independent artist working with oil on canvas. I live and work in Málaga, Andalucía in Southern Spain.
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One Response to Abstract Art: To name or not to name.

  1. I totally agree: your explanation is really clear and well stated… even so… if there are observers who do not nesecarily see your feelings as you ment them, they are free to “like” the painting because they are recognizing their feelings in it, and their feelings may be totally different, e.g. the “balls” for them say something which comes up, by association, to other feelings… and that is valid too. The contemplator may even ignore the title and let the painting speak to his soul in a different way, and still enjoy it thoroughly. Ignore the opinions that sound like vinegar as: “so much for…” xx S

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