Sunday, May 8, 2011

Abstraction and How Did I Get There?
Mystery Surrounds Us by Teresa Young - Jan-2011
It's been quite a long time since I've published blog post, and I'd like to say that I've been reluctant to slam articles out for the sake of bringing traffic to my website. I've realized that I like to write about things that I've mulled over, thoughts that I feel are worth being shared with others...
Earlier on in the process of my metamorphosing from an IT person into a professional artist, I had researched how one should setup and run an art website. The guidelines for websites usually contain an explanation of SEO, search engine optimization, and how to use keywords to bring traffic in from searches.  That approach leads to many webposts with not a lot of content. Or perhaps content that is mostly graphical. I find I have a hard enough time writing an article, without figuring out if I'm tailoring to optimal keywords and phrases.  And I'm an artist, I paint because I love it so writing about art or what I think about it should also be a labour of love, not something calculated for commercial marketing value!

I'm a painter at heart, and a bit of a social philosopher, and when reading non-fiction, I tend toward books that examine humanity, society, art and interpersonal relations... Nope, I'm not saying that I read historical romance novels!  But I'm pretty interested in how we think and relate to one another.
Teresa Young circa 1985
Recently, I've been reading books by Nicholas Carr, he was in the news last year for speculating that Google has changed the way that we think.  I waited impatiently for his book on this theory, 'The Shallows' and bought it online through Amazon.  Pretty appropriate in my mind!

I'll probably get more than one blogpost from reading that book, but I'm going to limit myself here to what I'm focusing on at the moment.  I'd like to mention that in this book, Mr. Carr theorizes that humanity was hugely changed by the technological advance mapmaking...  He speculates that civilization in general was greatly advanced by maps, in that they taught most people to think abstractly.  And he makes a really good argument for this, I'm personally convinced that he's got a point.

The Colour Wheel - Another Abstraction
Think about it, a map is an abstraction of reality.  You have symbols that represent real things, roads, rivers, lakes, mountains and man-made things like blocks, streets, museums, coffee shops, art galleries... It's quite a lot of abstraction, and if you've never been exposed to abstract thinking or maps before, it would be a hard leap to take.

Watching a toddler trying to understand a map is a very good example of where our ancestors must have started with this new advance. Our society is inundated with abstraction, we've all grown up surrounded by more concepts and symbols than we're ever consciously aware of and we take it for granted.
The Fungus by Teresa Young - August - 2001

I've been thinking about art with this in mind, and my own growth in how I understand and view art generally.  When I was in grade school, I liked art that looked like something. It always had to be recognizable, or I really disliked it. My own style of painting and drawing developed along realistic lines, and I was quite rigid about it. Since, I didn't understand abstraction in art, so I didn't do it. I confess that was rigid in my thinking artistically. Forgive me Picasso, for I have sinned...

When I was fourteen years old, something changed.  I have no idea what, maybe my brain started making more connections or I read a lot of maps?
I felt a desire to expand myself artistically and I was getting bored.  So I started drawing in ink in a surreal style.  My paintings were still realistic, mostly portraits and landscapes, but my drawings starting flowing from a different part of my brain.
Dance For Dreamers by Teresa Young.
I have to confess that I viewed the paintings as my 'real' art, and the drawings as something I did for fun.  When I was in my teens, I'd often get painter's block, and I wouldn't paint for months.  Artwork had to be studied, planned and carefully executed...  It really became a bit of a chore and I started wondering what the heck I was doing!
 As I grew older, my surrealism dipped over into abstraction more and more consistently.  I found that I started enjoying abstract art more.  I didn't understand it, but I could appreciate the colours, design elements, and elegance of it.  I started letting go of the idea that it always had to look like something or have pieces within it that looked like something. I think I became able to think abstractly artistically.  Which for me, was quite a leap. 

Unfortunately, I didn't get around to really liking or understanding abstraction in art until after I gave up trying to pursue it as a career path. I dropped out of college around the time I turned twenty, and went off and joined the Canadian military to see the world!
Twirl Over Time by Teresa Young-Feb.2011
I continued painting for fun, but took the pressure off of myself to achieve or produce paintings and just did art for it's own sake.
That was probably the biggest step I took, because my style started to evolve and change in it's own way, without outside influences.  Most likely, this is why my style is so unique, I didn't look at other artists and tried to draw or paint like them, I immersed myself in my own art and followed it's path in a solitary fashion.  I just read a blog today talking about abstract art in general and how it's usually created by artists that are somehow isolated from other artists.  Maybe that's true, you're abstracting and not painting from real life, so your vision is turned inwards somehow.
People have asked me how I come up with what I paint.  I actually can't describe my process specifically. It's like I unhook my logical brain and tap into my emotional side, in order to express something...  Since I'm never really sure what I'm expressing, it comes out as an abstraction.

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