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The birth of abstract: the legend of the ‘crazy artist’ by the Abstract Artist

June 25, 2021

Abstract artist logo of Zsuzsanna Pataki

The blog will get wilder as we go on, so grab your seat! This is an introduction to abstract. 

Henri Matisse emerged as the leader of the Fauvist movement. The name came from some art critiques calling them crazy, in French. That was a strong word in an age when mental health issues could see you institutionalised, as close to jail as you could get. What was their crime? They painted normal scenes, even boringly obvious ones. Nothing like today’s messy, chaotic images offered as ‘abstract’ collections. All they did was use abstract colours. His master in colour was the artist I admire most, John Russell. An Australian colourist.

I come from a strong, figurative background, and now am on my way towards abstraction; I create a range of works in between the two extremes. My favourite tools are colours. Abstract colours. This is how my mind works as I paint with them.

Currently developing a series on the theme of magic forests, my work is increasingly abstract. I keep asking, is it still too obvious? Am I spoon-feeding the viewer, instead of letting him discover the bites to savour?

I can always use less obvious colours… the green is superfluous, I break it down to blues and yellows. You know it’s a tree, why say it twice say it twice! (See how you stumbled on that sentence? Painting a shape of a tree and adding green to it has the same unnecessary-double effect).

The bluish-violet of the flowers can be expanded to include lighter pinks, deep purples and blues, and even reds. All the tints, tones, and shades of an entire colour family. In artist circles these are called analogous hues. I like to think of them as cousins. Some of them more distant than others, but all related. A brown tree trunk bathed in sunlight is a nice orange or peach colour, if you look closer, and leave the boring behind. Look at the other side and it turns greyish violet. So leave the grey behind, and use violet. The viewer’s mind supplies the obvious, you can trust them. Point out the unusual.

Today abstract colours are no longer a scandal, and we have a gorgeous range of original artworks available for you to collect, from our artists at Skylark Galleries.

Sara Sherwood
Sara’s colours enliven a traditional urban landscape.

Reflected in you canvas print on stretcher bars by Sara Sherwood

Reflected in you by Sara Sherwood
Canvas print on stretcher bars
Unframed 51 x 102cm 

Joel Sydenham
Joel’s vibrant colours bring a vibrancy and liveliness to an otherwise very traditional genre, portraiture.

The Dream Catcher by Joel SydenhamThe Dream Catcher
Dimensions of frame/mount: 34 x 28 x 5cm

Stella Tooth
Quite the opposite from Joel’s work, Stella's own colour-blocks around her musician figures - the dance of those abstract shapes - are the first thing one notices, way before realising it is actually a portrait. It is almost as if the portrait was wrapped up in an abstract. 

Bobby Cochran at the Half Moon Putney mixed media on paper by Stella Tooth

Bobby Cochran at the Half Moon Putney by Stella Tooth
Mixed media on paper 
Mounted: 70 x 50 x 0.5cm

Zsuzsanna Pataki
I love working traditional figurative subjects using abstract colours. Sometimes it is just one item, sometimes it's the whole canvas that gets the Fauvist treatment, depending on the emotions and atmosphere I want to imbue my work with.


St Pauls and Blackfriars by Zsuzsanna Pataki

St Paul's and Blackfriars by Zsuzsanna Pataki
Acrylic on canvas 
76 x 51 x 4cm

The Abstract Painter blogger for Skylark Galleries aka Zsuzsanna Pataki

Please comment below, what is your take on abstract?


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