Meaning in Abstraction

Episode 211 · July 10th, 2022 · 35 mins 11 secs

About this Episode

Abstract art --especially the kind that has no identifiable imagery-- may appear to have little meaning to the viewer beyond its purely visual appeal. Certainly, we can admire and respond to abstraction without needing a story or an explanation, as long as our eyes are intrigued or delighted, and that is an important way it can be appreciated. But in fact, ideas, emotions, and other points of reference lie behind even the most purely abstract work. Today we will consider the ideas that compel abstract artists and guide them in their work.

While a painting can never be fully explained, and can definitely be over-analyzed, understanding the general realm of ideas that lie behind an abstract work adds to your experience as a viewer. In reading artist statements and biographies, we can see that their sources of ideas in abstraction can be surprisingly specific and autobiographical. The process of interpreting ideas, images, emotions, information, and memories in visual language is challenging and requires a balance of intuition and intellect.

Abstract painting requires abstract thinking for both the artist and the viewer. Avoiding literal or illustrational approaches when working from specific ideas means being open-ended, flexible, and treating specific references more as jumping off points than as something you insist the viewer take from your work. There is a huge component of interpretation in all types of abstraction, and an abstract artist needs to allow guidance from ideas but without a need to dictate how others respond to the work.

Finding and expressing meaning in your work, however you create it, is key to having passion and involvement in the studio. For abstract artists there are special challenges in interpreting their ideas, and for viewers it means entering a world without labels and strict definition. A very different kind of conversation happens outside the realm of easily identifiable imagery. Intuition and imagination are important to both seeing and appreciating abstraction.

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What's new at Cold Wax Academy?
Rebecca and Jerry are busy planning the Summer Quarter of their membership program which begins on July 13. These exciting sessions will explore Personal Voice and Composition and continue the topic of Professional Development with some special guests. Member Critiques and Painting Clinics, Cold Wax Academy's new feature, are ongoing. You can join the membership program anytime and catch up with past recorded sessions at your own pace. Please visit for more information

Also-- stay tuned for information coming soon about Rebecca and Jerry's newest project, Espacio, dedicated to providing beautiful living and working spaces for artists and writers. Espacio's first offering is Casa Clavel, a modern, fully equipped house opening this September in the beautiful cultural city of San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. You can learn more and make a reservation by emailing [email protected]. A dedicated Espacio website is coming soon!

Here is what a member named Sandy has to say about her own experience with Cold Wax Academy:
"Rebecca and Jerry have presented the most professional, authentic and structured approach to a creative activity I have ever come across. Their selfless sharing of all their knowledge and encouragement is a gift in my life unsurpassed."

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