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Author Topic: Abstraction  (Read 2130 times)

opgr

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Abstraction
« on: September 19, 2017, 01:32:23 PM »

From wikipedia:

Quote
Abstraction in its main sense is a conceptual process where general rules and concepts are derived from the usage and classification of specific examples, literal ("real" or "concrete") signifiers, first principles, or other methods.

"An abstraction" is the outcome of this process—a concept that acts as a super-categorical noun for all subordinate concepts, and connects any related concepts as a group, field, or category.

So, an abstraction is a generalised representation of a specific entity. It seems however that a lot of visual artists in general and photographers in particular create non-representational art and call it abstraction. What then is it an abstraction of?
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Oscar

Rob C

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Re: Abstraction
« Reply #1 on: September 19, 2017, 02:39:39 PM »

I guess the Wiki definition is too narrow. It also clunks.

In essence, it's about as useful as a definition of art might be: not at all. Art and related things depend on interpretation and a certain vagueness; without that, they fall into prescription.

Rob

P.S.

Having witten this, I have to admit to a continuing - if not growing doubt - about our own thread on Abstracts for it is often anything but; it often falls - rises? - into mood or graphics, and I find it very difficult to accept they are compatible bedmates. Yes, I know it was a later, and conscious decision to make it the way it is now, but I don't think it has done anybody any favours by morphing into a GP unit of sorts...
« Last Edit: September 19, 2017, 02:46:14 PM by Rob C »
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elliot_n

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Re: Abstraction
« Reply #2 on: September 19, 2017, 02:57:38 PM »


So, an abstraction is a generalised representation of a specific entity. It seems however that a lot of visual artists in general and photographers in particular create non-representational art and call it abstraction. What then is it an abstraction of?


'Abstraction' refers to a detachment from the particular. So abstract thinking generalises from the world, whilst abstract painting avoids representing specific objects. 
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opgr

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Re: Abstraction
« Reply #3 on: September 19, 2017, 04:00:24 PM »

Having witten this, I have to admit to a continuing - if not growing doubt - about our own thread on Abstracts for it is often anything but; it often falls - rises? - into mood or graphics, and I find it very difficult to accept they are compatible bedmates.

Exactly! That is what i was thinking about as well.

Admittedly, I have deliberately chosen the linguistic definition of abstraction. The dictionary has this additional definition:
Quote
freedom from representational qualities in art:

But that, of course, can be considered a case of the tail wagging the dog. IF we are trying to communicate something with an abstract photo, then clearly, that type of abstraction should fulfil the former definition more than the latter.

Otherwise it seems to be just non-representational art. Sure it is mood-inducing, and if you like that Touret-type of art definition that the audience should just make of your art what they will, then you have managed to succeed with no effort at all. No effort at all... Well, maybe it took some effort to throw the camera in the air and have it do an inflight "click". But for me the question will always be: what is it an abstraction of? What exponents would fall within this generalised concept?

For example: a lot of supermacro photography and microscopy fall easily within non-representational art, but how could it be called an abstraction? It represents something I have never seen, have no concept of, and yet I have to form an abstract notion of what is presented?

Doesn't happen. What does happen is that the texture and color may evoke a mood, for each viewer differently. Certainly not a generalisation other than what colors already do culturally or otherwise.

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Oscar

Eric Myrvaagnes

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Re: Abstraction
« Reply #4 on: September 19, 2017, 04:16:35 PM »

'Abstraction' refers to a detachment from the particular. So abstract thinking generalises from the world, whilst abstract painting avoids representing specific objects.
This pretty much describes what I was thinking when I started the "Abstracts" thread.
If there is substantial sentiment for it, I'll change its title to something like "Abstracts, Graphics, Moods, Other non-representational images, etc."

Or perhaps "Abstracts, Graphics, Moods, Non-representational images, and Other Incompatible Bedmates."   ;)

-Eric
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opgr

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Re: Abstraction
« Reply #5 on: September 19, 2017, 04:24:01 PM »

'Abstraction' refers to a detachment from the particular. So abstract thinking generalises from the world, whilst abstract painting avoids representing specific objects.

It's a detachment from the particular, because it is a reduction to essentials. Apart from some a-priori concepts, it are generalisations of those particulars. So you might avoid specific objects, but that doesn't mean avoiding the essence. In fact, I think most of the renowned abstractions in art history are about searching for the essence. The essence as a generalised concept, that is: transferable between human beings, not just some bozo doing soulsearching which otherwise is incomprehensible to the rest of the world.
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Oscar

elliot_n

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Re: Abstraction
« Reply #6 on: September 19, 2017, 04:34:28 PM »

In fact, I think most of the renowned abstractions in art history are about searching for the essence. The essence as a generalised concept, that is: transferable between human beings, not just some bozo doing soulsearching which otherwise is incomprehensible to the rest of the world.

Abstract Art, for the most part, is not Conceptual Art. It does not work with 'generalised concepts'. It is primarily about feelings.

(I'm mainly thinking about paintings - Mondrian, Pollock, Rothko etc... Photography struggles to be truly abstract, rooted as it is in mimesis.)
« Last Edit: September 19, 2017, 04:47:53 PM by elliot_n »
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Rob C

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Re: Abstraction
« Reply #7 on: September 19, 2017, 05:03:53 PM »

"It represents something I have never seen, have no concept of, and yet I have to form an abstract notion of what is presented?" - Oscar.

Only if we start from the premise of having to represent something specific, or the spirit (mood) thereof. I prefer to leave it more open than that, the idea being that if the combinations of shape, colour or lack of it do something to me, in the sense of creating a sense of mystery, and I'm not sure why because they don't represent a specific, then that's abstract: the image is the essence of itself.

In fact, if the abstract is a photograph (a photo, and not a PS construct) it has to have an original, physical genesis where a painting does not; if that original is not discernable, then perhaps I deem that a better abstract, if only because it leaves me guessing. But I will only be left guessing if the image moves me; otherwise I simply won't care, which in my eyes, marks it a failure, even if my own creation.

"But that, of course, can be considered a case of the tail wagging the dog. If we are trying to communicate something with an abstract photo, then clearly, that type of abstraction should fulfil the former definition more than the latter." - Oscar.

But why assume the dog needs a tail? Why should an abstract try to communicate something specific? Isn't it enough that the thing excites, possibly even because of its mystery provenance? As long as the dog has a healthy bark...

"Doesn't happen. What does happen is that the texture and color may evoke a mood, for each viewer differently." - Oscar.

Which is where I came in.

;-)

Rob

« Last Edit: September 19, 2017, 05:10:04 PM by Rob C »
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Eric Myrvaagnes

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Re: Abstraction
« Reply #8 on: September 19, 2017, 06:17:14 PM »

"It represents something I have never seen, have no concept of, and yet I have to form an abstract notion of what is presented?" - Oscar.

Only if we start from the premise of having to represent something specific, or the spirit (mood) thereof. I prefer to leave it more open than that, the idea being that if the combinations of shape, colour or lack of it do something to me, in the sense of creating a sense of mystery, and I'm not sure why because they don't represent a specific, then that's abstract: the image is the essence of itself.

In fact, if the abstract is a photograph (a photo, and not a PS construct) it has to have an original, physical genesis where a painting does not; if that original is not discernable, then perhaps I deem that a better abstract, if only because it leaves me guessing. But I will only be left guessing if the image moves me; otherwise I simply won't care, which in my eyes, marks it a failure, even if my own creation.

"But that, of course, can be considered a case of the tail wagging the dog. If we are trying to communicate something with an abstract photo, then clearly, that type of abstraction should fulfil the former definition more than the latter." - Oscar.

But why assume the dog needs a tail? Why should an abstract try to communicate something specific? Isn't it enough that the thing excites, possibly even because of its mystery provenance? As long as the dog has a healthy bark...

"Doesn't happen. What does happen is that the texture and color may evoke a mood, for each viewer differently." - Oscar.

Which is where I came in.

;-)

Rob
Beautifully expressed, Rob. I totally agree.

Eric
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Rob C

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Re: Abstraction
« Reply #9 on: September 20, 2017, 03:22:13 AM »

Beautifully expressed, Rob. I totally agree.

Eric


Thank you Eric, and you comment is much more satisfying than would be a "Like" press! Buttons are for shirts and 501s.

;-)

Rob

GrahamBy

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Re: Abstraction
« Reply #10 on: September 20, 2017, 05:05:55 AM »

It's a detachment from the particular, because it is a reduction to essentials. Apart from some a-priori concepts, it are generalisations of those particulars. So you might avoid specific objects, but that doesn't mean avoiding the essence. In fact, I think most of the renowned abstractions in art history are about searching for the essence. The essence as a generalised concept, that is: transferable between human beings, not just some bozo doing soulsearching which otherwise is incomprehensible to the rest of the world.

This certainly appeals to me as a mathematician: one proves theorems in the greatest possible generality in order that they can apply to as many situations as possible: to do that, it is necessary to extract the common crucial features, ie the essence of a particular problem.

However, students always ask for examples :)

So here is a photo of the foyer of a building in Lyon. As documentation of French stair design, it's pretty poor, but it seems to create some sort of mood. It can also be seen as a composition of, on one hand purely geometrical objects of dark and light, on the other of elements with functional resonance: memories of stairs, the idea of climbing them to meet someone...
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Rob C

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Re: Abstraction
« Reply #11 on: September 20, 2017, 06:59:05 AM »

It always worries me when people conflate mathematics and art, which like it or not, is what we are talking about here.

I've never had an aptitude for maths, and frankly speaking, it terrifies me; yet, I took to the graphic arts as a duck to water. I find it difficult to believe the two can be connected in that manner, but that's not to say that people with both aptitudes don't exist - clearly enough right here on LuLa.

Seems the further we look for answers, the more foggy they become.

Rob

opgr

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Re: Abstraction
« Reply #12 on: September 20, 2017, 07:26:58 AM »

Abstract Art, for the most part, is not Conceptual Art. It does not work with 'generalised concepts'. It is primarily about feelings.

(I'm mainly thinking about paintings - Mondrian, Pollock, Rothko etc... Photography struggles to be truly abstract, rooted as it is in mimesis.)

When i think about abstraction i always think about Mondriaan's tree. I have seen the early realist drawings he did, and the in-between abstractions that eventually lead to the horizontal and vertical patterns. Once you see that natural transition, it is easy to see how the lines can represent a more-or-less universal essence.

Clearly he became so apt at it, that he could eventually just draw horizontal and vertical lines to represent his inner abstract concepts, even if they were external entities originally.

Similarly, when Picasso began breaking up his relative realist representations, you can clearly see his search for that point where the abstraction remains recognisable. Fortunately, he had artist friends to help and motivate which is why we ended up with such a far-reaching and brilliant change in art.
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Oscar

opgr

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Re: Abstraction
« Reply #13 on: September 20, 2017, 07:44:51 AM »

But why assume the dog needs a tail? Why should an abstract try to communicate something specific? Isn't it enough that the thing excites, possibly even because of its mystery provenance? As long as the dog has a healthy bark...

No, because we humans don't generally just bark, unless you have Tourette syndrom. We usually try to convey a message, or try to transfer an emotion. If we fail to make ourselves clear, we try to use a different explanation. That's why i don't adhere to that school of thought that art just is what the audience makes of it. If something moves you in a certain way, you might share it because you believe that perhaps more people are moved similarly, even if it is just a certain mystery.

Otherwise you only have to share images of dead people or porn, and you'll be certain that the audience is likely moved, and the similarity to Tourette should be immediately obvious.

Of course, i now imagining a new project were i will cut up existing works of beauty and intersperse images of porn and dead people, and call it Tourette syndrome...
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Oscar

Rob C

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Re: Abstraction
« Reply #14 on: September 20, 2017, 08:48:20 AM »

1.  No, because we humans don't generally just bark, unless you have Tourette syndrom. We usually try to convey a message, or try to transfer an emotion. If we fail to make ourselves clear, we try to use a different explanation. That's why i don't adhere to that school of thought that art just is what the audience makes of it. If something moves you in a certain way, you might share it because you believe that perhaps more people are moved similarly, even if it is just a certain mystery.

2.  Otherwise you only have to share images of dead people or porn, and you'll be certain that the audience is likely moved, and the similarity to Tourette should be immediately obvious.

Of course, i now imagining a new project were i will cut up existing works of beauty and intersperse images of porn and dead people, and call it Tourette syndrome...


1.  I'm perfectly happy to hear a pleasant bark - often better than inane conversation. Likewise many photographs: a suggestion of an unknown is sometimes better than a part of an oviously known entity. I trust my instinct on this one.

2. But what would be abstract about that? It would be representational and very specific. Worse, it would ask why anyone bothered to do it.

opgr

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Re: Abstraction
« Reply #15 on: September 20, 2017, 10:00:46 AM »

2. But what would be abstract about that? It would be representational and very specific. Worse, it would ask why anyone bothered to do it.

No, that wouldn'tbe abstract, but it is used as an example that we do not communicate randomly.

: a suggestion of an unknown is sometimes better than a part of an obviously known entity. I trust my instinct on this one.

I agree, except i don't think it can ever be a suggestion of an unknown, otherwise it doesn't process on the receiver's end with reasonable equivalence.

A suggestion of romance for example, or a suggestion of flirt, only works if the receiver has had those experiences and thus can relate to those suggestions in an image.

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Oscar

Rob C

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Re: Abstraction
« Reply #16 on: September 20, 2017, 10:53:23 AM »

No, that wouldn'tbe abstract, but it is used as an example that we do not communicate randomly.

I agree, except i don't think it can ever be a suggestion of an unknown, otherwise it doesn't process on the receiver's end with reasonable equivalence.

A suggestion of romance for example, or a suggestion of flirt, only works if the receiver has had those experiences and thus can relate to those suggestions in an image.


Oscar, you keep worrying about the receiver; sod him, it's neither for nor about him/her - it's about the photographer.

Neither flirtation nor romance would fit my own take on abstract - they are specific experiences and all you can do with them is cover the lens with Vaseline or fake it (!) in Photoshop - a new trick for the ladies to study, which may appear surreal today, but watch the digital  (no dreadful pun intended) space. But even then, it's still about a specific which, to me, ignores the basis of abstract: abstract is not about specific - it's about its own intrinsic appearance as what it is. Were it to be about specifics, via your analysis of it, then it would have to be at least vaguely representational to some degree, and recognition would then make it specific. I don't think you can or should know of what an abstract photograph is actually a photograph. Knowing kills the abstraction.

Rob

RSL

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Re: Abstraction
« Reply #17 on: September 20, 2017, 11:23:18 AM »

The trouble with photographic abstracts is that there's no photographic process that'll let you drip.

GrahamBy

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Re: Abstraction
« Reply #18 on: September 20, 2017, 12:03:00 PM »

The trouble with photographic abstracts is that there's no photographic process that'll let you drip.

Oh, there is... if you are printing in the darkroom... :)
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Eric Myrvaagnes

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Re: Abstraction
« Reply #19 on: September 20, 2017, 12:04:22 PM »

The trouble with photographic abstracts is that there's no photographic process that'll let you drip.
It may be harder in digital, but in the traditional wet darkroom you could always partially expose a sheet of print paper, drip some developer on it, and then drip some fixer on it.

(and wash it if you want it to last.)    ;D

P.S. Graham beat me to it. Great minds...
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