A Beginner’s Guide to Reading an Abstract Acrylic Painting

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What Makes Abstract Painting So Popular?
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Understanding Abstract Painting: A Beginner's Guide
Understanding Abstract Painting: A Beginner’s Guide
March 10, 2022
A Beginner's Guide to Reading an Abstract Acrylic Painting

Has it ever happened to you that you stood in front of a beautiful abstract acrylic painting taken aback by its sheer visual power and yet absolutely bewildered by what it conveys? A thousand questions pop up in mind; it can be a giant mountain full of snow shining brightly under the sun, an intimidating volcano posting to the sky, or it can be anything else. If these are a few questions that have crossed your mind while looking at an artwork, you are definitely in the right place.

In this blog, we will discuss how to understand abstract art and comprehend the intentions of the person who has done it. When you appreciate the art form for the freedom it inspires in making visual connections, it becomes an attempt to navigate every step towards addressing abstraction.

How to understand Abstract Art?

It is fairly easy to understand and abstract art. A wandering imagination and an open mind are all you need for beginning steps to prepare yourself to look beyond the things you recognise or know beforehand.

Typically, abstraction has its root in the intention and freedom of the artist and the viewer. It is the ability of the artist to apply their imagination to look beyond what we physically see or translate intangible emotions onto their canvas. Moreover, the audience can then try to connect to the artist’s intention and make their minds free of visual restriction.

If we look at it from a historic point of view, the abstract art movement emerged in the 19th century as a reaction to regular academic painting or realism. A simple way to understand the essence of abstract art is to think of it as a visual, which is quite the opposite of realistic art. While realism pays attention to every small detail, such as a wrinkle or tiny fold, abstraction gives the freedom to the artist to trust their intuition for creating art that is equally worthy of testing the audience’s intelligence.

Another important thing to remember while reading the best abstract paintings is that there is no code to crack. As human beings, we are naturally curious, and solving problems comes to us naturally. This can be quite a useful skill in many situations; it is not the case here. Another important thing to understand about this art form is that it doesn’t need to have a meaningful narrative or even a singular explanation.

So now that we know a thing or two about how to read an abstract acrylic painting, let us read about the dos and don’ts of it:

Dos and Don’ts of Reading an Abstract Art

Apart from the ways mentioned above, abstract paintings can also be appreciated in terms of the single elements of art such as shape, color, line, space, texture, value, etc. In any case, there are certain do’s and don’ts to keep in mind while reading abstract art:

  • Don’t look at the clock

There is no requirement to stand in front of an abstract work for long hours to really understand it. You just need to look at it for as long as you want and for as long as it keeps you engaged and talking to you.

  • Don’t just talk about anything abstract(pun intended)

It is well-known that art is subjective, and sometimes there are pieces that people just can’t connect to, particularly when it comes to the best abstract paintings. So it’s okay to not resonate with it and move on rather than talking gibberish.

  • Don’t insult the artist’s imagination

If you really can’t seem to like a work of an artist, you can ponder over the thought, and what it is that makes you feel that way about the painting

  • Don’t mind the title

More often than not, abstract paintings tend to have an extremely vague title, but that should not bother you. Actually, artists don’t use giveaway titles on purpose because they want the audience to interact with the art piece and eventually find its meaning. Having said that, you don’t have to completely ignore the title as it can sometimes be helpful in guiding your imagination.

  • Do read the wall text

While speaking of guides, make sure you always read the wall text. It will surely give you some insightful information on the artistic intention and artist’s background.

  • Do let the painting reach out to you

When you free your mind from the different thoughts you have and give it a little time, the painting will surely convey its intended emotion to you. You can also go for observing textures and colours and what they make you feel. As Jackson Pollock said ‘abstract painting is all about abstract, and it confronts you, so let the painting ask you some questions rather than the other way around.

  • Don’t stress about feeling something

It is not always that you will have some contextual side to a painting or necessarily feel any emotion. So if it doesn’t do anything to you, let it go and move on.

These are some of the dos and don’ts of reading an abstract acrylic painting.


Reading abstract art is not rocket science; however, always remember that abstraction does not have to convey meaning to you all the way. Understanding an artwork brings a momentary feeling of happiness and victory, but bathing in its mystery alone brings enjoyment too.


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