What is Abstract Art and How to critique Art?

What is Abstract Art:

Figurative art, sometimes written as figurativism, describes artwork—particularly paintings and sculptures—that is clearly derived from real object sources, and are therefore by definition representational. “Figurative art” is often defined in contrast to abstract art:

Since the arrival of abstract art the term figurative has been used to refer to any form of modern art that retains strong references to the real world

Painting and sculpture can therefore be divided into the categories of figurative, representational and abstract, although, strictly speaking, abstract art is derived (or abstracted) from a figurative or other natural source. 

Figurative art is not synonymous with “art that represents the human figure,” although human and animal figures are frequent subjects.

How to critique Art:

When you’re looking at a painting critically with a view to giving a critique to the artist and, equally, when you’re critiquing your own paintings, here are some of the things you ought to consider:

Size: Remember to take a look at the actual size of the painting and try to visualize it that big rather than the size of the photo on your computer screen.

Shape: Does the shape of the canvas (landscape or portrait) suit the subject matter? For example, a very long and thin canvas can add to the drama of a landscape.

• Artist’s Statement: Has the artist achieve their stated aim? Do you agree with their statement or interpretation of their painting, remembering that what the artist intends and what the viewer sees aren’t always the same thing.

• Title of the Painting: What is the title of the painting? What does it tell you about the painting and how does it guide your interpretation? Think about how you might have interpreted the painting if it had been called something else.

• Subject Matter: What is the painting of? Is it unusual, unexpected, controversial or intriguing? Does it lend itself to comparison to work by a famous painter? Do you understand the symbolism in the painting?

• Emotional Response: Does the painting generate an emotional reaction in you? What is the overall mood of the painting, and is this suitable for the subject?

• Composition: How have the elements of the painting been placed? Does your eye flow across the whole painting or does one element selfishly dominate? Is the main focus of the painting slap-bang in the centre of the painting (both vertically and horizontally), or off to one side? Is there anything that draws your eye into or across the painting? Also consider whether it’s been slavishly copied from reality or from a photograph rather than thought put into which elements were included?

• Skill: What level of technical skill does the artist display, making allowance for someone who’s just starting out and someone who’s an experienced artist? A beginner may not have been technically skilful in every element of their painting, but there’s usually some aspect that’s worth highlighting for the way it was dealt with and the potential it demonstrates.

• Medium: What was used to create the painting? What has the artist done with the possibilities presented by their choice of medium?

• Color: Has color been used realistically or used to convey emotion? Are the colors warm or cool and do they suit the subject? Has a restricted or monochrome palette been used (see the Monochrome Painting Project)? Have complementary colors been used in the shadows and are there reflected colors (colors ‘bouncing’ from one object onto another)?

• Texture: It’s extremely hard to see texture of a painting on a web page, but it’s something that should be considered when looking at a painting in “real life”.