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Abstract Figurative Art


Abstract figurative art is typically that which combines the use of the human figure with some degree of use of abstraction. The term can be seen as inherently contradictory, since the two concepts are opposites in a sense, yet the combination and juxtaposition of the two results in a fascinating and rich variety of artworks.

Famous abstract figurative works include "Abstract baboon" by Picasso, "Portrait" by Juan Gris, and "Under the Pergola in Nepal" by Umberto Boccioni.

Since the advent of abstract art (from about 1915 onwards), "figurative art" can be said to be art which I about an objective reality and not necessarily a human or animal body as the term previously meant. Another word for art which is derived from the objective world is "representational", which is in contrast with abstract art which does not necessarily represent any objective reality at all.

The human figure is one of the earliest and most important subjects throughout art history. While line, shape, light and dark, color, mass, volume, texture, and perspective could also be used in abstract art, in figurative art they are almost always used to create the impression of a form in space, and to portray some kind of narrative.

Early figurative art, like art by a child, was based on idealized symbols rather than observation, as is obvious in Egyptian art and other early styles. Indeed, all the way up to the time of the impressionists figurative art was still considered as an attempt to balance observation with the representation of a geometric ideal. It is only relatively recently in the art world that observation was considered to be acceptable in its own right, rather than being balanced with knowledge of a theoretically ideal form.

It is fascinating to observe that only after pure observation was explored could abstract art develop which can be fully divorced from any observation of the objective world (although rarely goes to that extreme and is usually base on some aspect of objective reality). As abstract art was explored, the seemingly contradictory concepts of abstraction and figuration were then combined to result in abstract figurative art.

There is a broad range of abstract figurative art these days, ranging from almost objective views distorted or enhanced in some way all the way to almost fully abstract pieces bearing only a slight influence from the human figure or its conceptual possibilities. The resulting art covers all mediums and styles, including painting drawing, computer created or computer-processed imagery, photography, sculpture and mixed media. Some such artwork combines some objective elements such as photography with some entirely abstract elements such as painted areas, or even using the same medium, contrast fully objective views in some areas of the work with fully abstract areas. The results can range from geometric to organic, simple to complex and recognizable to obscure.

While some pieces are obviously still about forms in space and narrative, as the original figurative artworks were, other pieces are much more about emotions or purely visual elements. The range of abstract figurative art today is fascinating and well worth exploring.
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