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  • Writer's pictureHelen English Artist

Art genres - you decide!

Updated: Mar 28, 2021

After writing about the impact which Impressionism had on the art world a hundred and fifty years ago, I thought I would talk about the way in which we can divide art into broad categories. This is a different idea to the many, and evolving, styles of art which surround us.

The categories in question are Representational, Abstract and Non-objective. This may come as a surprise as we are more used to discussing two, and even more of a surprise as we break down what each category comprises.

Representational art, as its name suggests, is attempting to represent something directly. So, when we paint a portrait or a landscape as realistically as possible, that artwork is representational. This category can actually range from hyper-realistic work, which is hard to distinguish from a photo, through to impressionistic, which is quite textural and ‘rough’ in appearance, painted to give a true and momentary impression of how an object or person appears. Monet’s work, as well as other Impressionists, are examples of representational art, as are the historical and mythological styles which preceded Impressionism. Other styles of artwork, such as illustrative and stylized sketches in pencil, pen, ink and wash, or impasto, can also fall under the representational umbrella as long as they seek to represent the subject as seen.

The second category is Abstract, which is only one step away from representational art. It explores colour, line and shape in a way which isn’t directly realistic, using the subject matter as a loose reference and focusing more on the surface of the medium, creating texture, playing with shape, and altering colour according to preference. Famous examples of abstract work are Picasso’s faces, sometimes presented in unrealistic colours with eyes are painted facing forward on a sideward face. The subject matter of this art can be determined but surface treatment is more important than realism. Paintings from the Cubism art movement are really good examples of what abstract work looks like, and many of the twentieth century art styles were abstract.

The final category is called Non-objective art. It is the type of work, made up of random or organised patterning, which is often referred to as abstract. It does not convey an object or person as subject matter. Instead, the artwork is made to be purely aesthetic, to convey mood or energy through colour and pattern. This is the category comprising the work of artists like Pollock and Kandinsky.

I hope that you enjoy figuring out the story behind the next piece of artwork which you see!

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