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Focus on Abstraction

Focus on Abstraction - The Evolution of Abstract Painting

How did the art world evolve from representational art (portraits, landscapes, still life) to purely abstract non-representational painting??? 

John Singer Sargent portrait, John Schuyler abstract painting

Here’s a brief history….

To set the frame work; there are 5 characteristics of Abstract Art which have held true through history.

  1. The resistance to renaissance model and figurative art.
  2. Abstract art consists of non representational art.
  3. There is an emphasis on materials and techniques.
  4. Absence of recognizable objects is prevalent.
  5. The value of colors, lines, texture and shapes becomes paramount.

Abstract Art, which is sometimes referred to as Non-objective Art or Non-Representational Art, is said to have started in the late 19th century in Europe. But some historians remark that the first documented abstract painter was Wassily Kandinsky in 1910. He was a flourishing art writer who wrote about his quest to create the world’s first purely abstract painting. He bragged about his intention of being referred to as the founder of abstract art and how he achieved it. This was Kandinsky’s intention even if other painters preceded him. 

Approximately 4 years before WWI several well known artists such as: Robert Delaunay, Wassily Kandinsky, Kazimir Malevich and Vladmir Tatlin started focusing on the fundamentals of Abstract Art. Then between WWI and WWII political and cultural issues influenced the work of art in Europe. Desperate European avant-garde artists fled to the United States where New York City became the hub for these migrating artists. Kandinsky once said “The more frighting the world becomes… the more art becomes abstract”.

In the 1940’s after WWII, and with the onset of these new avant-garde artists in New York, the school of Abstract Expressionism emerged. The Expressionists’ focus was on subjectivity which contributed to the shift toward pure abstraction. 

Abstract Expressionism encompassed two types of abstract painters- action painters like Jackson Pollock and Willem DeKooning, and color field painters like Mark Rothko and Barnett Newman. This movement displayed the artists crusade for freedom and self expression.

Pollock termed it as, “I want to express my feelings rather than illustrate them”

More emotion than reality dominated the the abstract artist’s work, presenting a personal point of view. Abstract Expressionists were influenced by the idea of tapping into the unconscious which reigned in surrealism. Stylistically abstract art included movements of Surrealism, Dadaism, Cubism & Fauvism. These movements are typically described in the following ways: 

Surrealism- The aim of Surrealism was to revolutionize the viewers experience. It rejected normal life in favor of one that focused on the unconscious and dreams. Surrealist Artists include Salvador Dali and Marc Chagall.

Dadaism- This movement was based on irrationality and a total disregard of the traditional artistic values. The work during this movement often included humor, whimsy, nonsense and spontaneity. Artists from this movement include Marcel Duchamp and Joan Miro’. 

Cubism- The aim of Cubism was to expose all of the viewpoints of an object or a person all at once. The items represented in the artwork took on a cube or geometric shape. Famous Cubism Artists include Pablo Picasso and Frida Kahlo.

By the 1960’s Minimalist started replacing Abstract Expressionists. One artist integral in contributing to the start of Minimalism was Jackson Pollack. He demonstrated the importance of texture, materiality and the process of seeing artwork as an consolidated form. Minimalism put Abstract Art on the sidelines in the early 70’s but Abstract Art soon returned to the forefront of many artists. 

At Gardner Colby Gallery we represent several very talented Abstract painters. They continue to stimulate the viewer with their expressive non-representational paintings, and we are always excited to share their talents with our clients! 

Here is information on a few of our wonderful abstract artists: 

Theresa Girard

Talented abstract painter and Rhode Island native, Theresa Girard is an art educator and facilitator.

In Theresa’s Artist Statement she wrote, "My recent paintings reflect a new confidence and purpose with paint and design. They are often driven by the weight of current circumstances, feelings, or intentions. I begin by energizing the surface until all of the marks have freed me of any distractions. Once energized, I simplify, looking for a soft conflict in color. Often the process repeats, developing a fast “impulse and observation” pace.
I am continually striving for the finished work to speak louder than I can communicate in words."
Theresa Girard

Her expressive paintings have been featured in several national publications including The Artist Magazine, Palette Magazine, Art Collector, Acrylics 3 and numerous books.  She is an exhibiting artist at the prestigious Providence Art Club.

Theresa Girard abstract painting
A Penny Candy by Theresa Girard

John Schuyler

Popular abstract artist John Schuyler expressed his thoughts on his art as,

"Art is a form of communication that connects you with other living things. It is everywhere and in everything which we either choose to see or not. My paintings are a way to communicate on a basic level. But moreover it is a means that enables me to pursue my passion on much more deeper level. My passion is to communicate in a profoundly positive way to those that I am fortunate to do so.  Passion is a Luxury. Your life is the masterpiece and you are the brush, choose to create beauty. We are directly connected to our environment that we let effects us in either a positive or negative way. Inspire those around you and they will in return inspire you..

Treat those around you with love and kindness and they will in return do the same.

Charity is a selfish act which brings you joy. Choose to be selfish.” John Schuyler

Color and texture are still the driving force in Schuyler's abstracts.  Schuyler scrapes and sands the surfaces of his paintings using a technique known as ”scraffito”.  This technique adds to the luminosity and depth in each piece.  Their rough texture alludes to a passionate physicality, while simplicity of color and form reflects a cool logic, a balance inherent in all of Schuyler’s paintings. Always innovating and experimenting, John also works on plexiglass. This has enabled him to achieve even more luminosity and depth in each painting.

Abstract painting by John Schuyler
Grafitto 63 by John Schuyler

Mike Browne

Florida native Mike Browne is an expressive abstract painter. 

Imagination is hard to explain, it took a long time to realize that I was expressing my subconscious through my paintings.” - Mike Browne

When he was eleven years old, Gerhard Meling stayed with Mike’s family and taught him about cubism and how to artistically and abstractly express his imagination. As a boy, Mike was also inspired by Paul Arsenault who he often watched painting.

Mike began his artistic career working as a designer in the surfing industry for well-known names such as Bob Hurley and Joe Knoernschild. His art is largely inspired by real-life situations, experiences, and emotions and each of his pieces conveys an abstract story of his fantastical life. Mike has traveled all over the world exploring nature, art, and culture. His work has earned the favor of collectors, critics, and other artists due to its unique style and powerful visual impact.

Abstract painting by Mike Browne
Get Ready, Get Set, Go! by Mike Browne

Pamela Campe

Our very own Pamela Campe is an accomplished abstract artist who states,

“Through contemplation and mediation, intuition is sourced and flows onto the canvas or paper.  As I paint my thoughts go to connection, nature, our shared planet and our common humanity.

Who am I?  Why are we here? What is the commonality of all things in the universe?  Sometimes, I'm just thinking about color and composition!  

My wish is to evoke a sense of curiosity and wonder, and perhaps a bit of delight, in the viewer.“   Pamela Campe

Influenced by her father’s love of art and antiques, Pamela studied Art History and Studio Fine Art with a concentration in painting at CW Post College/LI University, from which she graduated with honors.

Her college mentor; minimalist artist Robert Yasuda, her current mentor; abstract painter Theresa Girard, and the artists of the Abstract Expressionist movement have had the greatest influence on her work.

Abstract painting by Pamela Campe
Reaching Out by Pamela Campe

These are just a few of our unique and creative Abstract Artists! 

We give kudos to those fearless groundbreaking abstract artists in history who initiated the way for contemporary abstract painters to create with freedom and open minds.  Abstract art continues to link us to deep emotions that extend beyond our visible reality. 

Famous abstract painter Arshile Gorky sums up by saying,  “Abstraction allows man to see with his mind what he cannot see with his eyes… Abstract art enables the artist to perceive beyond the tangible, to extract the infinite out of the finite. It is the emancipation of the mind. It is an explosion into unknown areas”.

The history of Abstract Art is the history of artists' crusade for freedom, and Gardner Colby Gallery loves abstract art!

Gardner Colby Gallery is a fine art gallery located in the Third Street Shopping District of downtown Naples, Florida. Representing contemporary American artists with styles ranging from abstract, to transitional, to realism. To name just a few artists of note; Anna Kincaide, John Schuyler, Kevin Sloan, Theresa Girard, Frank Corso, Kim English, and Aaron Westerberg.