Art can generally be categorized into two types – representational and abstract art. Representational art depicts recognizable or common objects, while the abstract does not depict like recognizable or particular physical objects (Hahn par.5). In some cases, representational artworks appear true to life, in that they are almost like photographs. Abstract art, on the other hand, is usually made up of ambiguous designs, colors, and shapes and is intended to convey a message or express something indirectly. Abstract art normally indicates a slight, partial, or a complete departure from reality in its representation of imagery. This essay will look at the works of one artist in particular and examine one of his/her artworks for its implicit and explicit values so as to find out how it relates to the Eugene Oregon's community interests. The paper will also look at the artwork’s meaning and/ or potential impact on the Eugene Oregon community.
In general, abstract art is a “uniquely modern” kind of art that relies mostly on the artist’s emotions and the elements of an object or design rather than its exact representation (Chipp and Selz 97). Abstract art relies on visual semantics of color and form in order to create compositions which have no particular precedent in nature or which exist with a level of dependence on visual references in nature. Thus, abstract art is a broad branch of expressionism that allows artists unrestrained freedom of expression. A contemporary artist Jenny Gray is an artist who relies on this form of expressionism to depict concepts of how various small or seemingly insignificant fragments of information play significant roles in our lives (Gray par.1). Gray also applies an underlying theme of hiding, censoring, covering and layering her paintings in order to control and influence the painting to “only show part of the story” (Gray par.2).
Her paintings, for the most part, do not echo a conventional form of reality in that what one sees are colors, shapes, and lines. Consider, for example, the following painting titled “Collision.”
Looking at this painting, one cannot immediately or easily recognize what he or she is looking at. The main object in the painting can represent the face of a person with a tear falling on the side or it can also represent a small black house on top of a hill. Either way, Gray’s painting aptly represents a partial departure from reality since it is not an accurate representation of any particular object. This painting, “Collision”, has no particular explicit value to it although implicitly, it represents the conflict between what human beings want to show people about themselves, both psychologically and physically and how they are actually seen. Gray’s creation of this “layered abstract oil on canvas” painting works to demonstrate how people generally have many layers within them some prominently on the surface, some completely covered, and some behind translucent layers (Gray par.3).
The meaning and the basic concepts that are underlying in Gray's painting in relations to Eugene Oregon's community interests are to express the story of every individual’s transformation through life. Gray’s painting generally has a soothing effect when looking at it, and it is calming to the spirit. This is because it is geared towards encouraging others who are also going through the same transformations to understand and “discover and see their own evolving stories as well” (Gray par.3). This is a very important reason, in part, in that it makes the effect and the theme of the painting obvious and also helps to drive home the idea that human lives usually take place unconsciously. And indeed what makes people who they are exists beneath the surface of the perception of others and just beyond the reach of voluntary, purposeful thinking. As Hahn (par.40) concurs in saying that it is within that realm of our being where there exists “the strong, untamed and irrational forces that give life to our being and definition to what it means to be human.”
The artwork’s potential impact on the Eugene Oregon community is quite significant as it can help individuals to not only comprehend their struggles in discovering who they are but also help them realize that it is a part of what makes us human. Understanding who they are or exactly where they stand in the world or society has always been the primary struggle of every single human being. Some devise various systems and structures that they can identify with. Others identify themselves with labels and roles in a bid to define who they are. There are many ways for people to look at or define who they are. All of us as human beings have and employ this power every single day to show others “only what we want to show them about ourselves, both physically and psychologically” (Gray par.2).
In this regard, Grays painting – “Collision” – relates to the Eugene Oregon community’s interests through encouraging its viewers to positively discover themselves and also to look positively at their own evolving lives. The painting is a depiction of all the elements that exist within humans; their consciousness, emotions, perceptions, and inherent divinity. Thus, our body and other manifestations of who we are and what we choose to show people about ourselves is what defines us to the society around us, although it may not necessarily be who we are. This is the main implicit value of the “Collision” painting.
Although Gray’s abstract painting may have a social or political context embedded in it, it is not as clear or evident as her theme is. The context of her painting makes her piece relatable and deeply informative to its viewers. It is the intention of every artist to let his or her work absolutely and unequivocally speak for itself by being able to hold its own expressive space and, therefore, instantly transfer the artist’s emotional or psychological thought to the viewer. In Gray’s painting, however, this thought is not very clear when one first sees the painting; but as the viewer continues to regard the layers and tones, it slowly becomes evident.
- Browning, Herschel C., and Selz, Peter H. Theories of Modern Art: A Source Book by Artists and Critics. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1968. Print.
- Gray, Jenny. Contemporary Art by Jenny Gray. Jennygrayart.com, 2010. Web. 10 Dec 2013.
- Hahn, Harley. Harley Hahn Art Center: Understanding Abstract Art. Harley.com, 2013. Web.10 Dec 2013.