Figurative versus Abstraction
By Kurt von Behrmann
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Controversy still surrounds artists who work both abstractly and figuratively. One camp insists that artists must pick one of the other. If you select both, in some circles you are perceived as a ‘traitor.” Artists that move between abstraction and representationalism are seen by some as indecisive. One has to pick a side of the fence and remain committed to it.
If this situation was not perplexing enough, there is a public that looks upon all abstraction as self indulgent ‘doodling’ designed to appeal to an elite minority.
Between sharply defined camps and a U.S. public still “skittish” with anything that fails to resemeble what the human eye sees, artists who work abstractly and figuratively are caught in the bulls eye of the audience and other artists.
The reality of creativity is that many artists work both abstractly and figuratively. The diversity of moving between two views of the world makes for stronger art. Art schools spend time on their students training them in the formal side of art. It is in undergraduate school that you find both your “gods” and then your “skills.” It is there the foundation is formed. Toward the end of four years work, the notion is that you will ultimately your “voice.” Some managed to do that.
The argument about artists having to chose between being abstract or representational is a sideline. It is a choice no creative person should ever be forced to make.
The ultimate question artists have to answer is simple. The big question is that what is created be of merit. The artist owes an audience the best work possible. Artists should never be told their content must fit into one convenient camp.
It is one thing to show together abstract work or figurative work. The issue of presentation is separate.
To say an artist must choose to be in one camp or the other is paramount to putting artists into constrictive straight jackets.
Creativity is complex. It is much more than simply choosing between being abstract or representational. The real choices are more interesting.