Abstract Art is Not Without Rules

Abstract art? A product of the untalented, sold by the unprincipled to the utterly bewildered.
— Al Capp.

I would like to dispel the somewhat common belief that abstract painters are sloppy, messy, reckless renegades with no regard for rules and formalities. I realize that not everyone shares that sentiment and if you’re not one of them, please excuse the following rant.

The perception described above reminds me of the use of the word “anarchy”. The definition of anarchy isn’t simply the “absence of government”. It is really “…advocating a society based on voluntary cooperation…”

It does not mean “no rule” or “without law”. It simply expects each person to be self-ruled so there isn’t a need for laws. Of course, I’m not advocating anarchism in our society, because since we are human, with all of our moral and social imperfections, any implementation of anarchy would be disastrous. But that’s another subject entirely. Abstract Art, by many is indirectly misconstrued to be synonymous with “artistic anarchism” or “creative lawlessness”. True, abstract art departs from the constraints placed on purely figurative styles. By default, abstract art offers up much more freedom in the creative process. The possibilities and variations of outcome are limitless. This wide and unbounded freedom might appear to be anarchist by nature.

But if we continue the analogy, we must realize that freedom does not need to culminate in chaos. Abstract art can have rules and structure. Indeed it needs it. The viability and validity of abstract art lies with each artist. Sure, it provides limitless artistic freedom, but it can’t be without rules. Each artist must define his set of beliefs, his stance, his artistic creed – and he must then fully comply with these self-defined rules. If he doesn’t, he stands the chance of producing mediocre work at best, and endure the wrath or perhaps just a quiet dismissal from art critics and collectors.

Abstract Art not created with some defined rules is not Abstract Art. It’s just canvas and paint. The rules do exist. They are simply artist-defined.

Good abstract art is never an accident. It’s carefully developed and expertly orchestrated.

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