by Maria Doubrovskaia

Since the dawn of the 20th century, heritage of artwork in the West has been described by the tension in between figuration and abstraction. Right until rather just lately, these modes of illustration alternated, passing in and out of manner and competing for the favor of the critics and the standard public. In this day and age, having said that, this juxtaposition is no longer as severe as it has been in the earlier. Agora Gallery is proud to symbolize a range of artists, whose operate properly bridges the two creative idioms.

Horse Carrrying Twin Souls | Watercolor on Paper | 20″ x 28″ by Kate Walters
Liberty Leading the People (1830) – one particular of Eugène Delacroix’s most popular painting. Resource: Wikipedia

Figurative artwork, also termed representational, has traditionally derived its existence from genuine objects. At distinct occasions through the heritage of artwork in the West, artists approached figuration in another way.  In the 19th century, for case in point, the painter Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres favored Classical idealization, while his bitter opponent, Eugène Delacroix, championed Intimate dramatization of reality. Although these painters espoused distinct variations based on distinct philosophies of artwork, each artist remained faithful to doing work from existence in his individual way.

As the century wore on, ever-significantly radical variations of illustration emerged in the performs of pioneering artists like Edouard Manet, the Impressionists, and the Post Impressionists. But the genuine split with figuration did not arrive until the very first decade of the 20th century, when the self-proclaimed Cubists, Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque, deserted perspective used to depict house considering that the Renaissance and blended the difference in between the foreground and history of a painting. The Cubists also ceased to symbolize the figure in realistic methods, exploding the incredibly idea of the item as a cohesive, self-enclosed entity that exists separately from its surroundings. Instead, they exhibited it in motion, from several angles at at the time. Art historians argue that these improvements responded to transformations in the encounter of house and time, introduced about by contemporary technological innovation.

Composition 6, 1913 by Wassily Kandinsky
Resource: Wikipedia

Cubism may perhaps have paved the way for Non-Goal artwork, but it was not until Wassily Kandinsky and his 1912 e book “On the Spiritual in Art” that abstraction definitely entered the arena of Fashionable artwork. In his treatise, Kandinsky outlined what he considered as the mission of the abstract artist: to transcend the historic tradition of mimesis in get to symbolize a more true, a lot more religious, invisible reality. Kandinsky’s specific discussion of the abstract “vocabulary”: colour, line, dots, styles, and composition on a flat area, provide as a handbook of abstraction to this day.

Kandinsky’s radical solution ushered in the age of Non-Goal artwork, immortalized by these types of superb movements of the early 20th century as Constructivism, the Dada, or the Bauhaus. Nonetheless this new aesthetic, powerful as it was, did not simply do away with figuration. Representational artwork by no means totally went out of fashion. The Surrealist painters taken care of a solid bond with the seen reality even as they tried out to subvert it. Even though the Expressionists habitually labored from existence, they distorted and intensified reality. By the early 1930s, Europe and the Americas had been in the grip of the new figurative fashion: Socialist Realism, Fascist artwork, monumental realism of the New Deal WPA undertaking arrived to exchange the revolutionary variations of the previous period.

As the century wore on, illustration and figuration continued to alternate, contend, and evolve in the procedure. Right after Planet War II, when Summary Expressionism was all the rage, British painters Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud, Frank Auerbach, and many others., doggedly labored to develop new strategies to figuration, as did the Bay Spot Figurative movement. Even in the late 1970s and the 80s, at the onset of a new historical period described as postmodernism, the courageous new planet of Pop Art and abstractionist movements like Minimalism satisfied their match in the Neo-Expressionism of Jean-Michel Basquiat and figurative Symbolism of Francesco Clemente.

Currently it is no longer probable to argue that abstraction is outstanding to figuration or vice versa: the incredibly idea of a demanding difference in between these two variations has become obsolete. In the 21st century, artists may perhaps freely select to operate in the fashion suits them greatest. They may perhaps utilize any range of visible idioms, usually in the parameters of a solitary artwork.

Agora Gallery signifies many painters whose operate engages with the heritage of abstract artwork without having abandoning illustration.

Colombian artist Diego Velez explores still a further facet of the partnership in between figuration and abstraction. Velez’ fascination in flat styles and colour lend his operate a mural-like excellent. The artist eschews modeling and shading, still retains fascination in figurative features. Making use of repeating motifs of the face and the mask, city landscape, and organic and natural styles, Velez achieves extremely expressive compositions that could be as powerful on the massive scale as they are as easel paintings.

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Painting is about therapeutic and recovery for Brazilian artist Gray. As an oncologist who deals with actual physical and psychological struggling of his sufferers on a daily foundation, Portela uses the inventive procedure to express and replenish himself. Although the primary matter of his artwork is the human human body, the artist is a lot more fascinated in the expressive likely of the figure fairly than its realistic appearance. Gray usually limitations his selection of colour to just one particular or two and emphasizes line in a way reminiscent of Egon Schiele. Selected distortions of the human body, constantly current on Portela’s canvases, may perhaps symbolize feelings, or they may perhaps symbolize the way we encounter emotion in our bodies.

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María de Echevarría is a painter, who performs in the paradigm of colour field painting in the spirit of Mark Rothko. But whereas Rothko decreased his colour compositions to massive blocks of two-3 colours, de Echevarría choices a a lot more varied palette. Her paintings integrate illustration. For this artist, the merging of abstraction and illustration achieves a particular goal: to lend her operate an aura of mystical spirituality.

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An intriguing case in point of how modern artists merge abstraction and illustration can be gleaned from the operate of Iranian Canadian artist Fariba Baghi. Her paintings are closely influenced by her upbringing in Persia. The artist results in ethereal, abstract figures with organic and natural paints that are earthy in tone, checking out the distinction and connection in between the human form and the fragile features of nature.

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Need to have some particular assistance with regards to your artwork collection or assistance in beginning afresh? Benefit from our curatorial companies! To know a lot more, call us at product sales@agora-gallery.com

In the 21st century, when the major battles for the dominance of this or that fashion are powering us, blurring the line in between figuration and abstraction yields a prosperity of inventive prospects.


Maria Doubrovskaia is a visible artist and scholar. She moved to New York from St. Petersburg, Russia, when she was a child. The Chelsea Resort was seedy, and the Limelight was however a club again then. Maria loves cities and prefers somewhat unsafe cities to glossy shiny types. Some favorites are Naples, Palermo, Dakar, and Brooklyn in advance of 9/11. If Maria was not a visible artist and a scholar, she would be an anthropologist.

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