A Colourful Life

The Surprising Thing About Abstract Art

A while ago at craft fair, a friend made a comment about my art: “I like your abstract art, but I don’t really know what to do with it.  The flowers however – I get that. I could hang them on the wall”

I thought about this for a while.  You see I LOVE abstract art. A still life painting however, whilst I admire the skill behind it and the detailed depiction of a reality, I would never hang on my walls.


There is something about losing yourself in a sea of undefined colours and shapes that appeals to me, and captures my imagination.  Abstract art on a wall adds something to my spaces/influences my mood. Until recently, I wasn’t really sure why though.

And then I listened to Dr Fiona Kerr, founder of the NeuroTech Instittute talk at a conference, about her project called “Looking Up”, and her research into how our brains respond to deeper connections with others and our environment.  One aspect of this was about daydreaming:

“Looking up and out and daydreaming is more than a pleasant way to pass the time.  It is actually our natural cognitive state, technically called our default mode


Abstraction is turned on when we look up and out.  When we are gazing out of that window or at the horizon , we allow our brain to cut loose.  But at the same time, our free-wheeling brains working hard, busy making all sorts of abstract connections between “chunks” of knowledge and data filed away in their own separate compartments, and putting information together in new ways.” (The Art and Science of Looking Up, Dr Fiona Kerr & Lekki Maze)

I experience this when I go running – the free-wheeling thoughts and ideas, and also when I gaze at abstract art.  I think it helps our brains to switch off on one level, and opens a door to possibilities and wonder.

And again from The Art and Science of Looking Up:

“This is the state of abstraction, the basis of the Aha! moment, and essential for deep thinking, creative concept building and new insights”

Perhaps I’m generalising too far when I extend it to Abstract Art – I don’t know – but it helps me to make sense of the great joy that many experience from abstract and impressionist forms of art.

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