Failed Perception

September 1, 2017
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Color is the keyboard, the eyes are the harmonies, the soul is the piano with many strings. The artist is the hand that plays, touching one key or another, to cause vibrations in the soul.
-Kandinsky
Abstract art is non-objective, non-figurative, and non representational.
The start of the form was extremely experimental. Today styles within the abstract genre have emerged yet the foundation of expression on which it is built allows for continued experimentation.  The composition of the art can be traced to the philosophical appreciation of art that stems from Plato. “Straight lines and circles are... not only beautiful... but eternally and absolutely beautiful." Early abstract art utilized the same medium as its traditional forefathers yet flourished in its progressive unrestrictive nature.
“The Abstract Expressionism movement began in the 1940s in New York City after World War II. However, the first real Abstract Art was painted earlier by some Expressionists, noteabley Kandinsky in the early 1900s.”


The world was vastly different than today and abstractionism broke away from traditional art forms. Art forms that tended to view expression as a realistic representation of life and the world.
“Artwork holds much important information regarding the
efficient encoding of the natural world, and it is therefore
useful both for researchers in vision science and those in signal
processing.” (Daniel Graham)
With such a foundation why do observers restrict themselves from experimental interpretation?
Ingrained within the human species is the primal desire to survive. Often this steers individuals to avoid conflict. In a world where failure is punished many individuals experience fear of interpretation due to what they perceive as opportunity for mistakes. The structure of society pressures individuals to conform yet art asks them to do just the opposite. Some label abstract art as frivolous work involving little artistic skill and holding no true value.  This relates to symbolic interactionism and perception.
I interviewed three high-school students attending a performance art school. In the interviews, each individual was shown famous abstract art pieces: Kandinsky’s “Transverse Line,” Duchamp’s “Nude descending the stairs,” and Malevich’s “Black Square.” I asked each to say one word that came to mind when looking at the piece. An array of answers emerged: desert, visionary, face, and power. I asked how the pieces made them feel and received feedback such as goofy, confused, and stuck.

Each individual saw and felt something vastly different. Each clearly identified the pieces as “abstract,” but they could not define the word. As each question was asked the individuals seemed confused and hesitant to answer. At the end of each interview I revealed the titles of the pieces and if possible the subject of the work.

“Oh, I was wrong.” One of the interveiwees answered afterwards.

How can an individual’s feeling and perception be incorrect in regard to an art style they cannot even define? You see, So often society punishes us for failure, training us to fear it. When opportunities for free interpretation arise, we avoid them due to this fear. This is seen especially in regard to art and creation. Artists strive to express themselves and encourage others to do the same. In order for an artist to feel they have to think, and everyone thinks differently.Perception is defined as a way of regarding, understanding, or interpreting something; a mental impression.Abstract art is built on the foundation of pure expression and interpretation which are dependant on perception.
“Abstractionists use a visual language of shape, form, color and line to create a composition which may exist with a degree of independence from visual references in the world.”(Widewalls)
Abstract: defined as existing in thought or as an idea but not having a physical or concrete existence. Abstractionism is defined as the principles and practice of abstract art.   Today the world of abstract art flourishes with the roots of expression and experimentation. The art form is not enjoyed by all and many admit that this comes from a lack of understanding. Reality is often seen as the most important part of a society, yet the reality of that society is constructed by how people talk about it. This symbolic interactionism often goes unacknowledged in daily life. Different connotations of the world in which we live often intimidate societies because it can be interpreted as challenging one’s reality.Abstract art asks to challenge your own reality and perhaps redefine it based on your perception. So often people look at an abstract art piece that challenges what they know, and rather than embrace their perception they conceal it.
In conclusion, you do not have to enjoy abstract art. You are not even required to understand art at all, merely asked to utilize your perception to construct your own reality. Art may evoke fear but also allow it to spark inspiration, expression, and freedom. The aesthetic qualities of art seek to move you. Your perception is not a sign of failure or defeat, but a sign of gaining understanding. Your perception is neither correct nor incorrect, it is as relative as the reality it creates. In the words of Wassily Kandinsky, “There is no must in art because art is free.”





 






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