Another artist who fits into the abstract mold and who is also concerned with non-objective art is Robert Pepperell. He differs from the works of Frank Stella in that his works do suggest to some extent a world that lies outside the artwork per se, but his focus is not on an idealistic spiritual area of apprehension but rather on the way that we see the world around us. Like Stella, his work does not conform to the earlier abstract views and to Kandinsky's'inner necessity'.
Paradox 1. (2005)
Robert Pepperell's work has been described as an exploration and even a postmodern deconstruction of the habitual mode of seeing the world. In other words, the paintings refer to elements and images that are on the fringes of recognition but are never able to be completely placed or categorized. The works tend to put our normal sense of viewing the world into doubt and this is referred to as the indeterminacy effect. As some commentator explains; "In contrast with our habitual mode of seeing, in which visual sensation is accompanied by immediate recognition, the indeterminacy effect presents viewers with a perceptual conundrum, namely an apparently meaningful yet persistently meaningless scene, which they struggle to resolve." (Ishai a., Fairhall S. And Pepperell R., 2007) the drawing and paintings by Pepperell are therefore, " designed to induce a disrupted perceptual condition in which what we see cannot be matched with what we know. Instead of a recognizable depiction, the viewer is presented with "potential image"... that is, a complex multiplicity of possible images, none of which ever finally resolves." (Ishai a., Fairhall S. And Pepperell R., 2007)
In essence these works conform to the postmodern emphasis on paradox and the indeterminacy of meaning in art and in reality. Visual indeterminacy is also described as occurring "... when the sensory data gathered from the visual system cannot be integrated with semantic knowledge." (Pepperell R.) This method is intended to "... defamiliarize our perceptions of the world..." (Pepperell R.) Pepperell's approach to abstract art therefore follows the idea that the value of art lies mainly in technique ands reside within the work which is non-referential.
The technique of art is to make objects 'unfamiliar,' to make forms difficult, to increase the difficulty and length of perception because the process of perception is an aesthetic end in itself and must be prolonged. In art it is our experience of the process of construction that counts, not the finished product. (Shklovsk, 1965, p. 12)
Furthermore, Pepperell's paintings and drawings differ from traditional forms of abstract composition in that while earlier abstraction did not depict natural objects but emphasized line color and shape to create a certain emotional and intellectual response, Pepperell's indeterminate paintings "...strongly imply natural forms, while at the at same time resisting easy or immediate identification." (Ishai a., Fairhall S. And Pepperell R., 2007) Aspects that may make the images recognizable are purposely excluded from the paintings.
Therefore, one could conclude that in contrast to the central meaning and motivation for abstract art, as Kandinsky and others saw it, modern abstract artists like Stella and Pepperell view art as self-contained...
While both use the formal element of abstraction their direction and intention are very different to traditional views of the transcendental and spiritual aims of this art form.
The issue of abstraction and its modern definition is complex and has been further complicated by postmodern interpretations of art and reality. While there are many types and shapes of art that could be termed abstract and while there is no overall agreement in the art world about this term, what is clear is the many modern abstract artists differs from early abstractionists on a number of essential points. The most important of these is that early abstraction was concerned with the use of non-representational form and color to explore the higher or spiritual realms of nature and reality. This was the stated stance of the founder of abstraction, Wassily Kandinsky. Other modern artists like Rothco continued to use abstract elements in their works in an attempt to achieve the high ideals that were set out by Kandinsky.
However, the changing mood in art and the emergence of a 'postmodern' attitude in the modern world that denies or interrogates the existence of eternal ideals and truths and tend toward a more relativistic and interrogative attitude towards reality, leads to the view of the artwork without reference to anything outside of itself. This means that modern abstract art employs the styles and techniques of abstract art without the idealism that had initiated the abstract art movement. This can be seen in many contemporary artists such as Frank Stella and others.
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Shklovsky, Viktor 1965, "Art as Technique" Trans. Lee T. Lemon and Marion J. Reis. Russian Formalist Criticism: Four Essays, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, pp.3-57.
SOLOMON, D. 2003, Frank Stella's Expressionist Phase, viewed 21 July, 2008, http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9804E4D9133DF937A35756C0A9659C8B63
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