On Abstraction

Throughout my work I have been groping for abstraction. I can now see my work in relation to abstraction. Many (though of course not all) of my favourite artists work or worked with abstraction: Ellsworth Kelly, Brigit Riley, Brice Marden, Pollock, de Kooning, Eva Hesse, Donald Judd and many, many others.

Early on, I read of Bacon's dismissive comments on the work of Pollock, describing them as 'lacework'. As much as I loved Bacon's work, this summary dismissal seemed deeply unfair. It was as if he was saying 'abstract art is not relevant because it has no referent to reality." I profoundly disagree. For me, abstraction is reality. But the charge of irrelevance is harder to ignore. I realise now I have been trying to make a body of work that makes abstraction meaningful. The beauty of abstraction is that it can stand on the cusp of understanding and misunderstanding. To look carefully at an abstract work is a creative act in itself. The viewer attempts to construct meaning, extrinsic to the work or within its aesthetic confines, and this means that fruitful misunderstandings can occur. To me it seems far more interesting to approach a subject or theme with an abstract language. It's easy to depict something. Suggestion without depiction is a more subtle approach, risking a misunderstanding between viewer and artist that may result in startling and unusual conclusions. Looking at my practice through the lens of abstraction makes my struggles and failures much more understandable.