Abstract vs. Landscape Paintings



Something I’ve never tried to do is make an abstract painting. I’ve been regrouping after the huge church building- doing experiments, thinking, taking pictures, doing drafts. Usually during this time I come around to wondering if I should branch out by doing a still life or a pure abstraction.

If you look at the top left, that’s been my computer background at work every day. I feel dwarfed by that painting (which is by Kandinsky) in that 1. I don’t understand why it works and 2. Even thought it’s incredible and simultaneously nonsense, I couldn’t for the life of me make that painting on a technical level.

On the right, you’ll see my previous computer background, which looks like my typical go to for inspiration. It’s by Maurice De Vlaminck.

Here’s a pretty basic question- is abstraction about anything? Kandinsky believed (I think) that it was- that the shapes and colors had inherent meaning. When I see the paintings side by side, though, it’s hard for me to separate the meaning I get from buildings, rivers, boats from the meaning I would get from the interesting shapes and movement of Kandinsky’s painting. This is confounding, because I have feelings about buildings, rivers, boats in addition to their color and shape. Shouldn’t I have more feelings about a landscape than about an abstract painting? There’s both the liminal ideas to look at as well as the colors and painting elements. And- let’s be real hear, the De Vlaminck is a really cool painting. The foreground/middleground/background progression is an interesting set of color. The preponderance of blue, the repetition of the yellow motif, the way he makes the river work as a river with a very simple differentiation of stroke from the sky: these are all really engaging compositional strategies to me. Both paintings, though, end up having the same level of fascination for me, if not with Kandinsky’s painting being weighted

The result of this line of thinking is that I end up believing that abstract paintings end up being differently but equally meaningful as descriptive/discernible paintings. Which is odd- because if that’s true, it would mean that composition has more power than description.

I’m not sure. In my own paintings, I think a lot about the vibe, vs. any sort of didactic meaning. Recently I’ve experimented with having more cohesive ideas going into a painting. Trains/Dragons, Grocery Knight are both more than just me saying “Hey cool! A building!” But even while doing that, I know that there are deeply provocative things at work when I say “Hey cool!” to a building. I think the subliminal gravity of composition in real life, when we find a scene particularly striking, is something worth representing as we find it.  In other words, I think that abstraction is more real than it gets credit for. I think it is echoing compositions that we see in real life, without pulling apart what “elements” we are seeing. For instance, when we see sun hit a house and cause a shadown, there’s numerous things in play that make us feel moved. When abstraction echoes that composition, it moves those feelings along with them.

So…maybe abstraction is naturalism?

In any case, here is painting that’s making me think through all this stuff. Trying to work through making my tiniest landscape yet.


If you got to the bottom, thanks for hanging in. I think about this stuff a lot- it’s nice to get it out onto “paper”.

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