The Meaning of Abstract Art?

What is the meaning of abstract art, does it actually have a meaning?



The dictionary’s definition is:

  1. thought of, apart from concrete realities, specific objects, or actual instances

  2. something that concentrates in itself the essential qualities of anything more extensive or more general, or of several things, essence

Personally, I think the dictionary’s definition hits the nail on the head on both points and the meaning is quite clear.


Abstract art is an idea, not a formal image, not concrete. You don’t live in reality when looking at an abstract artwork, its subjective and two people looking at the same piece of work don’t necessarily see the same thing.

Take me and my sister for example. In Janet Smith’s “Boatyard”, bottom right corner, I see chains and an anchor whereas my sister sees a Ram, yes I said a Ram. I cannot see it and she cannot see what I see. We could have stood there and argued all day and we would never have agreed on what we each see.

In a way this is a great example of what abstract art is, it means something different to each person, it can become individual to that person.

A different example is one of my own pieces “String Theory”. I named it such as at the time, I saw a connection between space time strings and gravity (possibly the result of watching too much Star Trek oops) but a lady came into the gallery and said “oh, I can see the bird sitting on a branch” (sometimes you do have to wonder what people have been smoking, but hey ho). It wasn’t until she said it, that I could see it. I saw the bird and the branch, so my perspective of String Theory changed somewhat. My original thought pattern is still there, its just altered depending on my mood I guess, one day I’ll see the bird and on another I just see the relativity of time and space.

In my view an abstract artist creates an “essence” of themselves in every piece. They feed off their emotions, feelings, thoughts and a point of view not many people can see or understand.

So, does abstract art have a meaning? Yes it certainly does, it means something different to each and every one of us, each piece is individual, unique and creates a journey for the viewer. It asks questions, pushes people into thinking outside of reality and if they don’t “see” anything in the artwork then that’s ok too, it can just be a lovely artwork, a splash of colour or something dramatic to hang on your wall.

Abstract artwork will always be a talking point and so it should be.

Alli Cullimore

Gallery 68

21/8/20

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