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I enjoy creating abstract imagery despite the unusual creation process. Usually there is less planning and more of "going with the flow" - just to see what shows up on my screen. The funny thing is that the older I get, the more I appreciate this kind of art. I guess it's the unusual freedom of expression that makes abstract pictures what they are.

When I first started doing abstract pictures I did it mostly because I liked the patterns or shapes and combination of colors that sometimes would emerge when I was doing texture work. Some of my early experimentation is actually based on some of those textures.

Abstract art is a rather unusual form of art. Not only due to its abstract visual nature, but also because the need for the type of skills commonly found in other painting or illustrative arts is often limited or none.

I sometimes wonder about the origins of abstract art. What forces brought it into existence? I actually have a few ideas based on personal musings.

The prehistoric cave paintings of altered states of consciousness as experienced by shamans could be called the first form of abstract art. But the roots of what we commonly understand by abstract art are found in the nineteenth century. And here are some of the ideas that I think might have been influential in giving rise to and shaping abstract art.

1) The established norms were too laborious. Popular art styles of the nineteenth century were too laborious for the changing times, so new styles emerged that were less time consuming. This evolution of styles kept progressing until it got to the point where some styles got increasingly abstract, which eventually also lead to total abstraction, or what today is commonly called abstract art.

2) Out with the old. The natural need for change to avoid boredom and stagnation.

3) More freedom, equality, and increased competition. The social and cultural changes during the past hundred years or so, resulted in unusual amount of freedom and independence. Which in turn led to more ideas and competition between them. Usually, the winning ideas are either the best improvement over the preceding ideas, or something radically different that gains acceptance. Abstract art can be seen as a successful deviation thanks to the cultural freedom and openness to new ideas in modern times.

4) The disintegration of the psyche. The negative consequences of modern life caused by human vices compounded by increasing industrialization and rapid technological progression: fast-forward cultural norms, too much change happening too fast, egotism and arrogance, bureaucracy, corruption, and vast amount of highly diverse and often contradictory information. All this creates confusion, lack of meaning and direction in life. Abstract art can therefore be a reflection of the insanity of modern times as experienced by the psyche of the artist.

5) Attention becomes increasingly fragmented. This is very apparent today where so much competes for peoples attention. Fragmentation of attention results in less sustained concentration, so there is less time to concentrate on a task. Rate of change and therefore pace of life 100 years ago was much slower than today, but was much faster than 500 years ago.

Abstract art is very compatible with modern times in that it does not require long periods of concentrated effort. It can be, and often is, done quickly with little creative effort and minimal planning. Which by no means makes it less of an art form, it is just radically different from its predecessors. The rapid production process can easily lead to higher productivity, and increases chances of artist's survival in an increasingly competitive environment.

6) Incidental beauty. Artists have probably been noticing this for ages, that sometimes when mixing paints on the palette, visually pleasing colors, shapes and patterns would emerge. But it was first very recently that one could do this on canvas and call it art.

7) The invention of photography in the 1830s changed the way how artists painted. Photography could create pictures more realistically than painting ever could. Artists began to work on new styles of expression.

More to come...

I consider this article a work in progress and therefore will update it with new ides as I come to think of them.

Art and Illustration Studio.


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