Putting something that you’ve created out into the world can be quite nerve wracking at times. You’re opening yourself up to negative comments and criticism and you wonder if those negative thoughts that often creep into your mind might be thought by other people.
“ You don’t know what you’re doing” “ You are not a serious artist”
“ You have no understanding of value or composition, and when a painting works out it’s just luck”
I’m quite comfortable sharing my work on Instagram now ,as I’ve found a community of supportive artists and art lovers on there. On facebook I worry that my posts are an annoyance to people, because my work will appear on the feeds of people that have no interest in art, and people who actively dislike it.
“My four year old could do better”
At the weekend I noticed this comment on a post of my paintings on my local facebook page.
I was a bit taken aback and posted a screenshot to my Instagram stories to see if others had experienced similar. I had other artists getting in touch saying they’d had comments like that from strangers. Some people had even overheard similar comments at art shows.
I wasn’t overly upset as it does seem a really obvious thing to say, but it did stop me from posting about an exhibition I was taking part in.
I’m interested in why abstract art sometimes provokes a strong reaction in people so that they have to put it down. People don’t seem to react in the same way when they view other areas they have no interest in.
My partner said that where he works they used an art rental service for the office and at one point they had an original Gretchen Albrecht abstract hanging in their meeting room. He noticed the reactions of the other to men in the room, they were dismissive, and gave the usual “ what a load of rubbish” comments but he noticed they didn’t even want to look at it and would turn their backs. Is it a kind of fear? To not even look ? Imagine being left in a room with nothing but a big piece of art just for one minute, time to slow down and let your eyes wander.
I think I can understand this feeling - of not wanting to open yourself up to something. I felt the same about jazz. I had a boyfriend years ago who loved Jazz and I would go over and hear it and just have an immediate aversion to it and actually ask him to turn it off. It just sounded like a mess. It hurt my ears. I wanted a melody and a verse and a chorus. I couldn’t stand it. I also felt like I was living in a corny film and didn’t want to be in , not with that soundtrack. He loved it so much and wanted me to just sit and listen to a whole record and give it a chance. He said I was like those people that say “ Oh I don’t understand abstract art” and I think I was but I wasn’t ready to try.
Another reason I think abstract art provokes these reactions might be something to do with how abstract art is often presented in mainstream culture. In films or TV, it’s usually seen in this elitist world of snooty people living in a soulless modern apartment. It all costs millions of dollars and people talk about it using unintelligible language ( which is kind of true in the high art gallery world- but this is not the only art world. )
We went to the Auckland art fair a couple of weeks ago and I was really happy to see a huge abstract below. I enjoyed the look of the swooping brushstroke and the way the paint soaked into the canvas and seeing the little splashes. I felt a tingling and and excitement - it felt pleasurable to look at. For me, that’s enough. If I get a reaction that like that I feel alive. For me, I don’t need to have an extensive knowledge of art history to know if I like a piece of art like I know when I see a beautiful textile or pattern or react to a beautiful view.
I think everyone’s visual taste is unique and everyone can respond to abstract shapes and colours. I love the big, confident brushstrokes of a Franz Kline but don’t like the smeary brushstrokes of Howard Hodgkin. I don’t like it when there are too many saturated colours, especially primary and secondary, I don’t like crimson and certain shades of green together. I often don’t like my own work at certain stages and work so hard at it , trying to make it something more to my own taste.
As an abstract painter there are always going to be people who don’t like your work, or don’t like abstract art in general. I’m not going to take such comments to heart , I need to remember - they’re just not my people, the people I want to connect with. I’m not trying to convince the whole world to like my paintings, I just want people with a love of a certain style of painting to be able to see them.