I used to discard the question of abstract versus representational as dated and beside the point. I had my go-to argument that everything is abstract in painting, it’s just a matter of how and to what degree you abstract the painting subject.
But when reading an article by John Elderfield on the work of Richard Diebenkorn—an artist who moved along the spectrum of abstract and representational throughout his career—I started to think it can be a useful distinction to make.
“Abstraction and representation, Diebenkorn insisted, are totally different worlds—different laws—different methodology.” (The Art of Richard Diebenkorn).
In my own painting practice, I simultaneously work with both, and what remains is something in between, something impure and unresolved.
This question multiplies to sub-questions that hang in the air throughout the working process—flat surfaces of colour versus the illusion of space, improvisation versus premeditated execution, a person versus the figure. The resulting works are at best a compromise that can’t hide the conflicting elements at play.
Tuuli Kerätär, 1985, Turku
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