As a gallery dealing in Modern & Contemporary Art, Abstract art is a cornerstone of our stock, as would be expected, given that it has formed a central stream in the Modern Art movement since circa 1900. However, over a century of abstraction has not lessened its power to divide opinion. Commonly overheard in the gallery are the classic phrases - “I don't get abstract art”, “What is it meant to be?” or the ubiquitous “My kid could do that”. Many people see abstract art as something to be viewed at the Tate and would be happy to stroll around a Mark Rothko exhibit, but baulk at the idea of something in that genre on their wall at home, preferring to take refuge in the safety of representational images.
But there is a secret that all interior designers, magazine editors and of course, art galleries know - that abstract art looks amazing on the wall, unleashing a striking visual image that simultaneously looks in harmony with your home. Take a look at your favourite interior magazine, you’ll more than likely find a abstract piece is chosen to bring the room together. For those whose career it is to decorate homes, abstract art is considered the ‘safe’ choice - you can subtly match a colour scheme, or go as bold with colour as you dare, but crucially the image will always work. It will also never date, always looking fresh and contemporary, for example our Miro and Matisse original lithographs from the 1950s easily stand next to anything created in the last 10 years. An abstract piece can add a modern edge to a more traditional room, and it’s far easier to hang a large scale abstract piece on the wall as it is usually less dominating to the eye and mind than a representational price of the same size.
So we’ve established that abstract art is going to look great on your wall - but isn’t buying art an emotional experience, shouldn’t we buy a piece that ‘speaks to us’ (to use a common phrase we hear in the gallery), not something that’s merely decorative? Those that say that they don’t ‘get’ abstract art are usually those who haven’t lived with it. Abstract art is all about emotion - the raw, pure state of feeling and expression which can be shared by both artist and viewer, caught in a moment of time. When we allow our minds to be freed from the shackles of ‘what is it meant to be?’, and allow ourselves to be immersed in the feeling the images, colours, shapes and movement provoke in us, we find a piece that not only can live on our wall, but that will invoke further emotions over time, that we find new responses to, that changes with the light, that relaxes and inspires, all whilst it sits in your home.
With an understanding that abstract art provides mood for your home, the next stage is to curate certain feelings in your rooms via the work; Francois Pont’s drypoint etchings combined with hand painted forms are popular for sitting rooms and lounges as they invoke feelings of space, movement and the expanse of lakes and mountains - which all add to the ultimate in relaxation. A bold use of geometrical shape and colour by Willard Boepple or Mali Morris RA would inspire creative thought in an office, or create an exciting, energetic statement in a hallway to be greeted to each day. Clare Wardman’s evocative works seek to trap a fragment in time and explore its possibilities - and with their close detail and texture - they would work beautifully in a bedroom, where different lighting would allow the viewer find something new to discover everyday.
You can also dip your toe into abstraction with forms that are still recognisable - for example our selection of original Picasso lithographs show abstracted versions of animals or Spanish buildings, or Sophie Berger’s original oil paintings of Dartmoor, which express mood and sky through abstracted shapes and paint textures. Or just go full out and experience the joy of Britain’s most famous abstract artist, Sir Terry Frost, through his shapes and colour that seem to simply invoke happiness and life, or Iain Robertson’s jazzy oil paintings and prints of bold forms and bright colours that seem to have their own musical language. Either way, these are works that’ll never age and certainly never bore.
If you are still not convinced - in 1937 Hitler put on two art exhibitions - The Great German Art Exhibition was designed to show works that Hitler approved of, depicting statuesque blonde nudes along with idealised landscapes and the second exhibition, just down the road, showed the other side of German art - modern, abstract, non-representational - or as the Nazis saw it, “degenerate”. The Degenerate Art Exhibition included works by some of the great international names - Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky - along with famous German artists of the time. Crucially one room was labelled ‘the insanity room’, filled with abstract works and described in the exhibition handbook thus; “In the paintings and drawings of this chamber of horrors there is no telling what was in the sick brains of those who wielded the brush or the pencil”. The result was that The Degenerate Art Exhibition in Munich attracted more than a million visitors - three times more than the officially sanctioned Great German Art Exhibition. So although abstract art is now firmly part of the art establishment, it still carries with it a political and radical element. Can all of this be said for a watercolour of a robin?
As for your kid being able to paint it - no, no they couldn’t.
If you would like to try an abstract piece on your wall, The Art Hound Gallery offer our ‘at home’ service
Author: Natasha, Art Hound Director