What a beautifully written post.
For what it´s worth, and quite by chance, I have found myself working in this very aspect of photography lo these past few days.
I thought it would be interesting to use digital capture in a sort of abstract manner, so I put a very light coating of Vaseline on a small piece of glass which fits in a Cokin holder. With this hightly sophisticated adaptation in front of the lens, I moved very close to some flowers, closer even than the normal focussing range of the lens, and proceeded to manipulate the resulting blurred images in a variety of ways, even by such simple means as by changing the angle of rotation of the ´filter´ and immediately fell in love with the images in the camera.
After working on the files in the computer, I took them to a level of abstract beauty (in MY eyes) where I could hardly wait to print.
At the same time, I had managed to source some Hahnemuehle Photo Rag Bright White and thought that a combination of the new images and a new (to me) paper might inspire my mind to even greater heights.
Until I printed the first test strip.
Dismally poor would be a kind way of putting it, unlike prints of other subjects on a much cheaper paper available from the UK - Jessops Heavyweight Photo Matt 230gsm - which gives me a great combination with the HP B9180 at the Jessops-recommended profile of HP Premium Paper. I did not use that profile with the Hahnemuehle material trying, instead, the HP Smooth Fine Art which has been recommended on this forum. It was horribly flat, showing absolutely nothing of the vibrancy and deep, deep colours of the screen (I understand the difference between transmitted and reflected light viewing). I then downloaded two different versions of Hahnemuehle profile from their site (one suggests using Rigid Rag as paper type - I tried that and also the alternative, the name of which, at the moment, escapes my memory) but the difference was a very slight increase in separation of the colours but still a pronounced flatness coupled with what seemed, at first glance, to be banding.
This led to an instant head realignment exercise. In for a penny, in for a pound - or three - per pop, I decided, so I printed an A3+ on the Hahne-supplied profile and also another A3+ using the HP Smooth Fine Art profile.
The Hahne-profiled one still shows the ´banding´and the HP profiled one does not, being only slightly less contrasty than the Hahne, but still very flat.
On looking even more deeply into the soul of the Hahne-profiled shot, I began to think that I was not really seeing banding at all, more a sort of smallish wave pattern, entirely absent in the other print.
I ran an A5 test of the second Hahnemuehle-supplied profile, but as it showed the same fault as the first such profile, I went no further with it.
I have yet to try this Hahnemuehle paper on the same profile that works so well with Jessops paper, but my gut feeling is not positve!
But anyway, that´s just the background to the meat of this post, which is that abstract photography is, I believe, quite different to abstract painting for the very reasons mentioned in your post and also because where there is sufficient data to give an understanding of the reality/identity of the subject in the photograph, something in the mind wants - no, demands - that a small part at least of that subject be rendered fairly crisply as a token of confirmation of the viewer´s/photographer´s understanding of what it is that he is looking at so closely.
For my own shots from that session, I should have ensured that a tiny slot of glass was free of Vaseline smear. I don´t imagine this would have had any effect on the subsequent banding(?) issue, but if so, then it also raises the question of whether, where there is NO sharp feature in a picture, the printer does not have a harder time behaving itself without offering any corrective input of its own...
Don´t ask me how this might happen - I have insufficient trust in the entire business as it is!