Abstract Collage

I bought several pieces recently from an artist named Janet Ahrens. She is an Iowa artist that starts by making her own paper. She adds squares made of various materials, such as porcelain, tile, rock, or plastic. Found objects, usually twigs, may also be used. She puts them in very deep frames, but not shadow boxes. Some are titled, but most are not. She does not like to put titles into her work, because she does not want to put her interpretation on it. This way, the viewer is allowed to come up with their own interpretations.


I see abstracted landscapes and cityscapes. I love the juxtaposition of the natural with the man made and the irony of the coarse material that is man made, but looks natural. The framing of the piece also intrigues me. There is a mat around the field, but the art doesn’t fit inside it. She purposely places part of it outside the allotted space. To me, this is representative of the creativity of humanity, refusing to stay within their self-imposed bounds. It also shows the wild forces of nature, where such bounds are irrelevant.


I purposely arranged the pieces in an order that followed this sort of irreverence. The pieces are placed so that they form a definite grouping. They are aligned along the center, but not on any edge. The distance between the top and bottom of each piece was kept the same to give more structure.


I hope to see more of Ms. Ahrens art in the future.


What I look for in Abstract Art

Abstract art. Strange images of lines, blobs, fields, and whatever. Some people love it, some people hate it, and I would like to say no one really understands it. Even a lot of artists who make abstract art don’t claim to understand it. It could be highly symbolic, like Aquarium by MAGIC.


Some have no significance outside of themselves, like these pieces by Shawn Wolter.IMG_2972

As an amateur art collector, what do I look for in abstract art? First, color. If the colors catch my eye, I am much more likely to buy the piece. I particularly like contrasting colors like the red, black, and white on the piece above. I will admit that I tend to buy particular colors. My walls are like a palette, just like an artist might have. If I don’t like the color, I won’t buy it, even if I like the imagery.

Second, depth. The shininess of Aquarium made a big impression on me, particularly with the flatness of the black and blue on the piece. The random lines contrasting with the different shades of white on the Wolter piece on the left draw my eye. I am a fan of Rothko and his color field paintings because of the interplay of the colors involved in the pieces.

Third, composition. How are the elements arranged on the piece. Are they interesting? Do I connect with it in an emotional way? Are the shapes interesting enough that I can look at it over and over and still be entranced? Do they symbolize anything to me? What was the intention of the artist? Do I agree?

Do not fall into the trap of thinking that just because the art is simple it was not difficult to make. Believe me, it isn’t easy to make paint scribbles look good. It also isn’t easy to make color fields have depth and interest.

As with any art, you have to connect to it on an emotional and intellectual level. Look carefully at the art in the shows you attend. Talk to the artists about their techniques and why they do what they do. If they mention an inspiration or another artist that they admire, go look them up. It makes looking at blobs more interesting than you can imagine.