chapter  6
13 Pages

Meaning in Abstract Art

ByPaul Crowther

This chapter outlines a “presumption of virtuality” that enables abstract configurations to be recognized as art and links this to the importance of optical illusion. It explores this through description of examples of Wassily Kandinsky’s and Piet Mondrian’s work, dating from the early days of abstraction. The virtual three-dimensional reality opened up by the optical illusion and planarity of pictorial space—if it is not that of familiar recognizable things and states of affairs—must be taken to be that of transperceptual space. The abstract configuration is one which can, as it were, crystallize into one kind of thing or into another, or even hover between what could be different aspects of the same thing. The presumption of virtuality gets a purchase over and above mere presentational contexts, because figurative art and abstract works both share a common ground—namely, optical illusion.