Whether you’re an art world aficionado or an art-history newbie, chances are you’ve come across the term ‘abstract art’. It’s a concept which spans many movements, and proves to be one of the most popular, diverse and intriguing styles of modern and contemporary art. From 12th century Chinese painting to the geometric forms used by Post-Impressionists Picasso and Cezanne, to Russian Constructivism or the paint-splattered canvases made famous by Jackson Pollock, an incredibly wide range of movements have been inspired by the emotional intensity and non-figurative potential of the abstract form. Formerly introduced by Kandinsky in the early 1900s, abstract art tends to turn its back on the recognisable, familiar forms that dominated the pre-twentieth century aesthetic, rather focusing on the relationship between lines, shapes, colour and composition, that could mean a whole number of things depending on who is looking. As a result, when searching for a new piece of art to hang in the home, you may be tempted to play it safe and plump for a more familiar, less unusual style.
Yet for those willing to take a leap, buying abstract art is a wonderful way to inject a new style into your interior, giving it a more modern touch. The beauty of the abstract is the openness and vagueness of its meaning: one person’s interpretation of an abstract painting or sculpture could be entirely different to another’s. Depending on the light, your mood, the time of day or its surroundings, your piece could mean something completely new each time you look at it, making it a very fun medium to collect.
If you’ve missed snapping up an abstract piece during our Spring season, there’s still plenty of opportunities to shop for abstract art on the Affordable Art Fair online shop. So, if you’re hoping to add a contemporary twist to your interior, be it a splash of colour, a bold conversation piece, or even a little muted tranquility, you can discover a whole range of unusual, non-figurative and beautiful abstract art online.
A Splash of Colour
Colour may well be the first thing you think of when contemplating abstract art. If you’ve ever viewed one of Kandinsky’s brightly pulsing canvases in the flesh, or considered the vivid, soulful colours of Rothko, you’ll understand the capacity of colour to embody intense emotion, something that many abstract artists utilise as a means of self-expression. By adding one intense colour to a room, such as the startling green of Silvia Lerin’s 'Verde Plegado (Folded Green)', you can effortlessly give it a modern uplift. Lerin’s startling work mingles vibrancy with thick, three-dimensional shapes, partly suggestive of nature but also referencing the sense of randomness that abstract work often exemplifies. The inclusion of red and black lines, a grey border and thick black shading add to the intensity of this work, which would work wonders in an otherwise plain or pale interior.
But abstract art does not always have to about big, bold colours, and it’s not just bright and vibrant works that fall within this category. Monochrome non-representative pieces are a deservedly popular addition to the home, creating an impact without the drama of riotous colour. For those in need of proof, browse a selection of Rod McIntosh’s arresting works online, such as his richly expressive 'Genesis'. Identifying himself as a ‘mark-maker’, McIntosh’s work references the processes and techniques of the abstract expressionists in America, who used the abstract form to experiment different ways to express themselves. Striking, unusual black and white pieces work well as part of a salon hang, providing the eye with a visual anchor amidst a busy wall.
Leaving it to chance
The interplay between shapes and colour is crucial to abstract work, as discussed by Affordable Art Fair artist Jane Emberson, who relies on mingling colours and swirling, fantastical shapes to give her work meaning. Her work 'Flameus' speaks of another often central component to abstract work: the role of chance. Using a common abstract technique of pouring paint straight onto the canvas à la Pollock, she explains, ’I find myself constantly challenged and delighted by (paint’s) independent qualities that can only be controlled to a point; after that, it must be allowed to find its own level’. Whether splattering paint, or, as Pollock did, literally stepping into the canvas, the role of chance adds a surrealist and fascinating twist to an abstract piece.
Of course, abstract work isn’t always about luck, and it’s often intensely ordered - just think about the work of Russian artist Malevich, or the infamous geometric forms of Mondrian’s meticulously composed paintings. Despite their vivid tones, the pastel, graphic shapes of Kieran Nash’s work 'Parma Violet' epitomise a sense of order and calm. Whilst it might be tempting to let a geometric print or painting stand alone in a minimalist interior, be brave and experiment with a salon hang, or hang a bright geometric print in an already busy room. You may find that the shapes and style compliments a series of home photographs or work well with your collection of plants and succulents. Abstract work doesn’t just need to be reserved for clean white spaces, and complicating rather than neutralising parts of your home can have exciting and unexpected results.
What’s in a name?
Sometimes, it's the name of an abstract piece that gets your mind racing. Paul Klee was a champion of this technique - the meaning of his strange and otherworldly scenes often seems completely unclear, until we read their titles, such as 'Nocturnal Festivity', 'Rising Sun' and 'Dream City'. Likewise, contemporary artists often follow suit. Amelia Wood’s 'The Fall' proves mysterious until we discover its title. Perhaps the shifting, contrasting forms are evocative of falling Autumn leaves, or maybe reference the downward movement of the shapes, literally falling out of the canvas. Either way, the beauty of abstraction allows your imagination to run wild, with these fun, uplifting works serving as a starting point for wider speculation.
A touch of abstract
We understand that sometimes, investing in a totally new style can be unnerving. For those wishing to give the abstract art a try without going to whole way, try a more muted painting that nods to the non-figurative, whilst representing something semi-recognisable. The fine balance between the figurative and the unknown is a common theme for contemporary artists, seen in Alice Orchard’s beguiling 'We Are Here', which focuses on brooding skies and built-up textures. Whilst partly recognisable as a landscape, Orchard’s work could easily be interpreted as an abstract piece, and its intriguing atmosphere and sense of space might be an ideal way to introduce a little touch of the abstract into your home.
Don’t forget: when buying abstract artwork, take advantage of our 14 day trial period. A work you think might be too much for your space might be just what you were looking for, and you can rest easy knowing you have a little time to mull it over.
Claire Luxton, Degree Art, Water Cloud Series No.1, £2,000, Mixed media on Canvas
Kathy Ramsay Carr, Amanda Aldous Fine Art, Dance to the Wind, £2,000, Oil on Canvas
Featured artworks from top to bottom:
Silvia Lerin, One Church Street, Verde Plegado (Folded Green), £1,995, Acrylic on paper
Rod McIntosh, Caiger Contemporary Art, Genesis, £1,200. Ink on Paper
Jane Emberson, Artdog London, Flameus, £1,750, Acrylic and mixed media on canvas
Kieran Nash, Wychwood Art, Parma Violet, £550, Acrylic on Canvas
Amelia Wood, The Art Movement, The Fall, £645, Acrylic
Alison Orchard, Will’s Art Warehouse, We Are Here, £650, Oil on board