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The Abstract Expressionism Movement and Contemporary Art

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Words: 1898 |

Pages: 4|

10 min read

Published: Dec 16, 2021

Words: 1898|Pages: 4|10 min read

Published: Dec 16, 2021

Table of contents

  1. Summary
  2. Introduction
  3. Romanticism
  4. Action Painting
    Field of colour
  5. Helen Frankenthaler
  6. Contemporary paintings
  7. Heather Day
    Landscape
  8. Conclusions

Summary

This report gives a brief analysis into which factors have built up contemporary art today. Looking closer at the abstract expressionism movement I want to investigate leading attributes through artists' works and techniques in relation to my own thought process when creating work.

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Introduction

The art world is constantly changing and adapting the way we view art. It allows us to consider different ideas of inventiveness and expand our thoughts for art, ever since cave paintings we have been intrigued about our limitations with creating. I want to find out how different characteristics and thoughts within the art world came around in development to how we view contemporary art today. This report examines how the art world has developed showing the evolution within movements, which has shaped up today's perceivement, including trends and techniques which artists have portrayed via paintings. This report will give a brief overview into some of the painterly movements however, it will give a close analysis into particular artworks and artists that have had a substantial impact on the art world and in my practise so far. It will have a closer examination of the abstract expressionism movement in relation to my current studio practice. It will also consider landscape and surroundings as a source of inspiration and the impact it has on work leading to be one of the main factors contributing to my work. This report will also investigate the impact of colour when creating work and the significance of line colour and texture to the viewer. The most important sources for this report have been books, gallerys, the internet with my own personal experiences with experimentation.

Romanticism

To appreciate why some of the thought process of abstract expressionism came around you would need to understand the beginning of rebelling against some of the traditional artistic “rules”. It wasn't until the evolution of human philosophy in literature in the romanticism era that artists began to show their thought process by experimentation in art. The romanticism movement was a significant turning point in the development of perceiving art. Founded in the early 1800 by literature critics the idea of romanticism thrived as the art movement in the early 19th century and prospered right up until the mid 19th century. The characteristics of Romanticism are made up of their belief in intuition rather than deduction as thoughts of evolution and human psychology overpowered those of spirituality. This leads to some of the factors of Romanticism such as the ability to express feelings, the appreciation of nature and landscapes and the importance of imagination. An early example of these ideas can be suggested in Caspar David Friedrich's “Monk by the Sea, 1809”, in which this somber painting has been simplified into land and sea. This suggests a metaphor for Friedrichs own imagination as the lonely figure stares into the abyss imagining the immensity of the universe. Friedrichs colour palette and painting technique is something to consider when referring back to characteristics of art in romanticism, the close brushstrokes of deep shades complementary blue and green suggests mystery and depth. Also a closer look at visible brushstrokes, suggesting energy and imagination. To evaluate the findings of certain attributes from this particular movement I have found that the minimal take to the painting via colour, composition and characteristics was daring and took artistic courage, this is something that had been adopted in the abstract expressionism movement. Evidently, there has been a great deal of significant movements in the development of history within the art world such as “impressionism” (Art movement, 1865-1885) “Cubism” (Art movement, 1907-1914). These can be understood by the way the world changes and our knowledge expands however it was worth noting in romanticism as the beginning of a shift in thought in the art world to lead where we are today. As Romanticism was heavily led by aesthetic experience, emotion and nature it allowed us to begin to view art differently this had taken the seriousness of art away and allowed it to become more playful. Again, relating back to this Romanticism movement, abstract expressionism paintings did not try to make images of things that existed in the world. Having a better knowledge of where different techniques and thought processes originated from I am able to begin to understand why I create work in the way I do.

There are two types of abstract expressionism.

Action Painting

Action paintings allowed the artist to consider the physical part of the process to be the main factor of the painting. This type of painting tends to be identified with the spontaneous pouring and gestural techniques reflect the amount of energy given to the painting. An example of this would be Jackson Pollock’s “Autumn Rhythm (Number 30), 1950”. This work shows the woven paint splattered in different layers of colour. Pollock in this painting and throughout his career, used a lot of household paint in his practice. This can give the panting a lot of added texture like cracking and depth. Experimenting with enamel paint within my own practise is something I have engaged with due to its versatility and inexpensive quantity.

Field of colour

Field painting tended to be a lot more calm with soft flat blocks of poured colour. Mark Rothko is a good comparison into finding out how come of the characteristics from abstract expressionism originated by some of the ideas in the 18th early 19th century when romanticism was around. Rothko’s “Purple, White and Red, 1953” As compared to Friedrich’s “Monk by the Sea, 1809” have similar attributes of abstraction. Rothko's painting has three simplified panels of dusky mysterious colour. Although Rothko never considered himself to be part of the abstract expressionism movement he clearly fits the qualities that added up to this art era driven by experimentation, mystery and emotion. Morris Louis’ take on the colour field technique is also worth considering as his brilliant rainbow colours in “Alpha-Phi” (1960) are poured onto canvas, with the negative space being just as important to the subject matter, this shows the riskiness of the technique but again artist courage.

Helen Frankenthaler

Frankenthaler was an important factor to the abstract expressionism movement as she followed Pollock's method of creation on the floor.

“Working on the floor allows more intimacy and control of the surface of the canvas” (Frankenthaler, 1984) This is something that I can relate back to within my own practice as I have found more control with the painting as a birds eye view allows me to use my whole body to create marks rather than just my hand. Understanding Frankenthaler's take on abstract expressionism is the concept of painting through instinctive feeling however by the forms, space and colours in her work suggest those of an abstract landscape. The idea of the medium being the message is something which is intriguing as Frankenthaler is subconsciously thinking back to a particular landscape or feeling of being within a landscape when creating her work.

“I see most of my paintings as landscapes or vista’s. Changing view’s, motion caught, I get some ideas from making studies outdoors or just noticing the designs and complications in nature”.

Colour has always been considered within Frankenthaler's work, a lot of complementary hazy pastel colours usually struck with a series of audacious contrasting colours. The ability to get the balance between those factors are proven challenging as Frankenthaler acknowledges: “It's a matter of how you resolve your doubts.” 

This shows that as the process of using the abstract expressionism techniques of painting being gestural mark making, you have to have the ability to allow room for mistakes which give your work the factor of being accidently delibirtal. This has been something I have been able to accept in my practise as I discover the importance of space, line, colour within my own work.

Frankenthaler's “Nature Abhors a Vacuum” (1973) Is a large piece full of spirit with its warm colour pallet. This work shows a lot of Frankenthaler's soak staining technique with large areas soaked in bold colours. This piece again reflects a landscape as the shapes curve and resemble hills, however isn't so obvious with the choices of colour she has used i.e pinks and oranges. This for me relates back to my studio practise as it gives impressions of recreating the emotional attachment you get when in a certain landscape and wanting to represent within painting.

Contemporary paintings

Heather Day

Heather Day has been successful within her practise as she has a strong following on instagram, this contemporary approach to art is something to consider within my own practise as using instagram as a blog is the quickest way to gain a following.

Day’s work shows a lot of the same methods and processes as Frankenthaler within the abstract expressionism movement. However, she uses landscape as the main sources of inspiration. Day’s process starts outside where she can quickly convey the feeling of being within a landscape through getting some of the ideas about texture and emotions of the landscape down in her sketchbook. This is something I would like to experiment more in relation to my practise as I believe it will give a small suggestion of landscape which I can take with me and respond to when painting larger works. In the studio Day takes some of the methods in the abstract expressionism movement, especially some adopted techniques from Frankenthaler such as soak staining. “Deference #2” (2019) shows an effective use of layering to express the energy within the landscape. Day’s use of blues proposes sea or sky within the abstract, against the grays and orange suggesting stone or brick. This symbolisation of landscape is simple but effective as you can really imagine the nature within the abstraction.

Landscape

Landscape painting in art has usually represented the composition in a very traditional manner for example James Morrison’s collection of Berg paintings. These series of paintings are oil on board, however his technique of diluting the oil down to more of a liquid creates mark making in his paintings that give a lot of texture. He uses a lot of cold blues suggesting the bitter weather in the arctic. The technique of diluting the oils down into a more manageable material is something I would consider for my own practise as it seems to be an effective way to add depth and layer up. The intention of expressing emotion through painting scenery has been given a contrasting meaning as artists symbolise aspects of landscape through colour line and texture. In relation to my practise landscape has been one of the main motives other than the process and materials. I have found that trying to represent the same aroma, motion, sights, emotion can be re-created by different methods, quickness or calmness and colours. This is personal to me as part of my art practise I have always felt grounded and most myself when being out in nature.

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Conclusions

I have found that the practise of balancing waves of flourishing colour with careful restraints found in many abstract artists will allow my work to develop as I allow room for mistakes and learn to work with them. Choosing complimentary but also contrasting colours to pursue a certain feeling or moment however considering the aesthetic of the painting. “If you can't break the rules in art, where can you?” Heather Day (2018), this theoretical question concludes this report as the idea of “breaking the rules of art” have been tested since romanticism, through abstract expression and to where we are today in contemporaries.

Image of Dr. Charlotte Jacobson
This essay was reviewed by
Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

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The Abstract Expressionism Movement And Contemporary Art. (2021, December 16). GradesFixer. Retrieved February 21, 2024, from https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/the-abstract-expressionism-movement-and-contemporary-art/
“The Abstract Expressionism Movement And Contemporary Art.” GradesFixer, 16 Dec. 2021, gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/the-abstract-expressionism-movement-and-contemporary-art/
The Abstract Expressionism Movement And Contemporary Art. [online]. Available at: <https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/the-abstract-expressionism-movement-and-contemporary-art/> [Accessed 21 Feb. 2024].
The Abstract Expressionism Movement And Contemporary Art [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2021 Dec 16 [cited 2024 Feb 21]. Available from: https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/the-abstract-expressionism-movement-and-contemporary-art/
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