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Understand abstraction in 3 minutes

20 avril 2020

Abstract art dates back to the 20th century and is still of interest to painters today, initially Europeans and then the entire world. The idea is simple: abandon portrayal and dwell on shapes and colors. Done with imitating nature! Make room for the most radical subjectivity and work on the material. During the Soulages exhibition at the Louvres Museum, movement is highlighted and makes its mark on the history of modernity. 

1. At the origins of abstract, the 19th century  

Abstract art is a genuine evolution when it comes to art and perception. This is why, historians tried guessing this in many artists, even those before the 20th century. We saw stormy skies and burning horizons with J. M. W. Turner (1775-1851), an initial fascination for pure color and light…And a certain affection for geometrical shapes in the landscapes of the Sainte Genevieve mountains, painted by Paul Cezanne (1839-1906). But impressionists are the ones who really paved the path to abstract art. As they were the first ones, who laid the foundation of a more instinctive world-not a believer of precise drawing, but more about leaning on playing with moving and evanescent shapes…Which completely disappeared, beginning 20th century onward! 

Claude Monet

2. The essential pioneers  

It was during the 1910’s that abstraction was at its peak. More characters, more frozen subjects, more landscapes-but with desire for free experimenting. The world of art carefully looks at the works of Vassily Kandinsky (1866-1944), who strives to re-create an emotion of symphony, with the help of colored spots…Or even blue, red and yellow squares and rectangles by Piet Mondrian (1872-1944), an undisputed genius of compositions on a white background. Kasimir Malevitch (1879-1935) takes things up a notch and offers freedom to completely united paintings: in 1918, he painted the Carre blanc on a white background, the first monochrome in history! More colorful and experimental, František Kupka (1871-1957) yearned to highlight the emotional potential of colors. In short, everyone has his hobby horse! 

                                                    Vassily Kandinsky                                                                          Piet Mondrian

3. Abstract art on a spiritual quest

This is the beauty of abstract art: despite abstract painters’ intentions which are at times very precise (like Kandinsky with his ambitions for musical transcribing), the viewer is completely free while looking at the painting. He can try to guess the artist’s movement, give importance to the movement, observe the intensity of blue. Faced with the iconic Soulages, the viewer can take a few steps, to see the light change and the material melt, turning into metal or rubber. It’s his choice-this is why abstact art is the perfect companion for spiritual thinking. Hence the importance of the famous stained-glass windows of Soulages in Conques, or those of Gerhard Richter (born in 1932) in the Cathedral of Koln, which diffracts the light in a range of colors-like the divine glory. 

Hilde Wilms, the dream colorist 

A German contemporary artist, Hilde Wilms left the security of working in a bank and completely devoted himself to abstract art. No shapes, subjects or narrative allusions can be identified on his paintings, but simply a pure jubilation of colors and compositions. On carefully worked backgrounds, Hilde Wilms portrays round shapes with poetic generosity, like Sun and lines like the fishing line. His dynamic compositions appeal to the eye, due to the meticulous combinations of colors, which are often warm and intense. His paintings are simple and unprecedented, on which materials are regularly adjusted, just like sand or collages. Genuine talismans to gaze at on a daily basis and always try and decipher, yet another nuance. 


                                              Hild Wilms, N121                                                                       Hild Wilms, N75