Interpreting Abstract Art Paintings
Abstract paintings are often seen as difficult to interpret. The reason for this is quite simple – the feelings
that go into painting abstract art can often not be expressed by the artist in any way other than by the creation
of a painting.
To then try to translate a painting into words would be like trying to understand what a bird is singing.
This doesn’t make interpretation impossible; it just makes the verbal expression of your interpretation
Stop trying to interpret abstract paintings. Instead of looking for meaning in the painting, examine your own
emotions as you view it. What feelings does the painting elicit? Do you feel content, happy or lustful? Do you feel
angry, fearful or disgusted? Why do you feel this way? This way, you can also get ideas on abstract painting when you dabble into this genre of
art in your oil painting.
It may have been the artist’s intention for you to have certain emotional responses, or it may not have, and
although that can be a very interesting point to discuss and think about, it is not what matters. More important
than the artist’s intention, is your own reaction to the painting itself.
As human beings, it is in our nature to seek the opinions of others, and to be influenced by those opinions.
When you are viewing abstract art, try not to allow any outside influences to affect your experience of the
painting. Don’t read the title of the artwork until after you’ve looked at it for a while.
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Don’t listen to what other people say about the painting until you’ve had a chance to have your own opinion.
Give yourself time to make a connection with what you see, and instead of trying to figure out what the painting
looks like or represents, allow something to emerge from what you see.
It’s important to remember that your opinion will differ from other people’s opinions. Your reactions may be
similar, but just as you don’t share your DNA or fingerprints with anybody else, you also don’t have exactly the
same opinion as anybody else on the planet. When you interpret an abstract painting, the focus is on how you
connect to the painting.
When viewing any form of art, especially in galleries, you are bound to overhear (or be told) other people’s
interpretations. Be respectful of other people’s opinions; you may not agree with them, but blindly dismissing how
another person relates to an artwork (without considering their views first) can be offensive, and would be
Look beyond the obvious. Don’t attempt to relate an abstract painting to an object, person or landscape on
purpose (although if something like this occurs to you without any effort on your part, then don’t ignore this) –
rather let the emotions, light and darkness, energy and overall feeling of the painting come to you naturally.
If you spend a while looking at the painting and you just don’t get anything from it, don’t let it worry you.
Everybody is not affected by every painting, and every person most certainly does not understand every
If a painting doesn’t evoke an emotional response in you, then it really doesn’t matter. Do try, as much as
possible, to open yourself to a painting and not to close yourself to what you could gain from interacting with a
painting, but never allow the failure to connect with one artwork stop you from trying again.
Remember, by exposing yourself to different styles of artworks, you can gain more exposure as you learn how to oil paint.
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