An Abstract Painting By Any Other Name

To name or not to name? That is the question.
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous interpretation,
Or to take arms against a sea of critics,
And by titling end them?

Thanks for the inspiration, Bill, but even cannibalizing your famous Hamlet scene doesn’t get me any closer to an answer for the question “should I title my paintings?”

A part of me thinks giving an abstract painting a name is cheating. It manipulates the viewer into a restricted interpretation when that viewer should have freedom to interpret it any way they want. The only restriction should be their own imagination. In other words, naming the work makes it easier to interpret the piece, and in turn makes it easier to decide whether to like it or not — “wow, I never thought of a field of horses that way. That’s so cool.” or “that piece of shit doesn’t look anything like a field of horses!”

In my opinion, a viewer should have to expend some effort before deciding to hate my art.

Even knowing what inspired me could be unfair. I may be inspired by something when I paint, but that doesn’t mean that I’m actually painting that “something”. It just means there are influences there. The creation of abstract paintings should be as intuitive as interpreting those paintings. Being open to varied interpretations is the bedrock of any art, but more especially abstract art. In fact, its meaning is totally dependent on that subjective interpretation of the viewer. The abstract piece becomes the interpretation.

For example, the piece below may be seen as different things to different people at different times. But if I title it “Fire” it will be more likely interpreted as fire. If I title it “Flowers” it BECOMES a picture of flowers. I can even manipulate the emotion it conveys by how I title it. Would you feel the same way about it if you originally thought it looked like birds in a tree only to find out it is called “Projectile Vomiting”?

And vice versa for you folks that already think it looks like vomit.

But leaving it untitled also leaves it open-ended. Some viewers may resent you for not giving them closure. It would be like a novelist starting a story and telling the reader to end it the way they want. What a rip off!

Maybe I could just give it a number. That should be neutral enough.

Regardless, I don’t really care what the picture below is called. If it helps you though, let’s just say it’s called “Projectile Vomiting of Fire #33”.

ebay pics 548

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2 Responses to An Abstract Painting By Any Other Name

  1. Charles Deetz ;) says:

    Having just consumed all your blog posts in this diary of your painting endeavor, I choose this post to acknowledge my snooping of your thoughts and feelings. In this post, you’ve found the tension that may define your existence, not just your art. Is your art about you, or is it about me, an observer. Or do we raise the art itself to a greater sentience by naming it?

    And so it is with my reading of your blog, I could claim any one of your posts to reflect on my situation, whether I feel richer or poorer than you. Or (as it turns out), I feel a lot like you.

    But as your art changes and resolves, or devolves, hopefully your humanity feels even more fervent than you can express here or in drops of paint. Because I think that is what we are all feeling, that brings us together.

    Peace, Brother.

    From a brother on the south side of town who hides behind fake name on WordPress for some reason. Someone who would love to sit and watch your bees sometime.

    • quo1 says:

      The bees are clustering in their hives for winter. No need for brothers to wait for a visit if one arises before the spring. Talk to you soon, brother, and thanks for the comment.

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