I took an old painting off the wall the other day and set it on its side on the floor while I hung another in its place. I don’t quite remember when I created it and even though I’ve received many compliments on it over the years, I never really liked it. It’s an OK painting, OK enough to display but not OK enough to sign. There was always something about it that, to me, wasn’t quite right.
As I stepped back to look at the newly hung art, my eye caught that painting on the floor, on its side, and I thought “wow”! It was a totally new painting. And suddenly I loved it. It used to be an abstract painting that didn’t quite hit its mark, but now…
My particular abstraction began as a beach scene. The problem I had with it was that it looked like a seascape gone wrong. It wasn’t rendered well enough to be realistic and not abstract enough to be, well, abstract. Being a realist artist, I generally see things in abstract painting that may or may not be intended and subsequently I have trouble seeing abstractly.
I made a comment recently that I wanted to attempt to create an abstract painting and hoped that I wouldn’t fail at it miserably. Some people questioned “failure” because by all accounts it would be “abstract”, so who would know (hint, the artist ALWAYS knows). So I felt obligated to explain that, contrary to popular belief, an abstract painting is so much more than paint thrown onto a canvas – that much thought goes into the process and execution. As much as a realistic drawing or painting can be poorly rendered, so too can an abstract.
But here is one of the things I love most about abstract paintings – there is no “right” side up. You can display them anyway you want. Sure, they are most likely painted from a certain perspective by the artist and exhibited that way to others – as the artist sees it – but when you break it down that old adage still holds true, it’s all in the eye of the beholder.
I recall Maya Angelou saying once that “when someone tells you who they are, believe them.” I think that holds true of art as well. Art can be both timeless and timely. However you look at it, if it’s saying something to you, it’s safe to believe what you experience from it. For me, I have a new perspective based solely on what the painting says to me. If perchance it moves into someone else’s collection, the new owner may hear a different story, see another angle. Fortunately, it’s finally an abstract and the only “right side up” is the side that speaks and says, “this is who I am.”
Now I look at my new painting and only see remnants of its former self and eventually those too will disappear. Moreover, I see an abstract I feel comfortable enough to sign. It’s still not at the top of my creative achievements but it’s a start.