Skip to main content
Article thumbnail
Location of Repository

Abstract Art: A Universal Language

By Stephen David Pegg


Can one really read a painting? Do abstract works communicate in a universal language of meaning with the marks accumulated on the canvas, the heaviness of one kind of paint to the other, the impasto of the paint, the size of the canvas do these all together imprint on us universal feelings, speak to us from the wall in a language that everyone can understand? It is without doubt a temping, sobering and provoking thought. As Jeremy Gilbert- Rolfe states “…the art world continuous to be a place in which the visual is usually an extension of the verbal: one does not look at most contemporary art so much as one reads it…I have suggested elsewhere that the art world’s distaste for the visual as opposed to the verbal is the function of its fear of beauty and preference for the version of the sublime that may be assimilated to he condition of the discursive” So we have a situation here already expounded by Gilbert-Rolfe that we have a fear of the visual abstract art, could it just not be visually communicative, universal and catholic language, but abstract art needs to be written and read about to explain it to viewer. Could abstract art be an art that can possibly be construed as to be open and to communicate in a visual language in a universal way? My contribution and main research question in this paper would be the argument that there are in general terms the belief with abstract art on the one hand is an art that pertains to speak a universal language to be understood by everyone and all in sundry. However, on the other hand if abstract art is so universal and can be understood and can be interpreted by all, why is there so much written on the subject explaining it? Thus at the end of the day is abstract art truly a communicative, universal and accessible visual language to be understood by us mere mortals? As Stephen Bann asks too “ On what terms, if at all, we are impelled to ask, does the abstract work communicate? Is the abstract artist perhaps the victim of a solipsistic illusion if he continues to believe that his work holds meaning for the rest of the world” ‘Victim’ or not whether it be the artist or the abstract work itself this poses an interesting situation. We have all at certain times experienced this dilemma when visiting a museum or exhibition, one finds one’s self reading the texts on the wall by the painting or sitting in front of the painting reading explanatory notes and essays in the catalogues to understand what is going on with an abstract manifestation on a wall before us

Topics: Letteren, Abstract Art, Universal Language
Year: 2007
OAI identifier:
Download PDF:
Sorry, we are unable to provide the full text but you may find it at the following location(s):
  • (external link)
  • Suggested articles

    To submit an update or takedown request for this paper, please submit an Update/Correction/Removal Request.