There is something intensely personal about abstract art that is rarely found in other artistic movements. Abstract art has a unique voice that provokes interest, permitting both artists and viewers a distinct sense of freedom and expression. Despite its often chaotic and spontaneous appearance, it possesses a structure that is composed of six key elements: colour, shape, form, texture, line, and value. These are essential to its success.
Are the six elements of abstract art important?
Each element plays a fundamental role in any piece of art, but without consideration and conscious thought they can easily be overlooked. With their unique characteristics, the six elements create an exciting and intriguing piece of art when balanced correctly. While they are the key components, it is ultimately at the discretion of the artist as to if, and how, they are used. Each is important, but some are focused on more readily than others. Artists are often encouraged to focus on each individually, noting what that particular element will bring to the artwork as a whole.
By understanding their functions, artists can control the mood and feeling, communicating ideas within the piece by effectively utilising line, colour, shape, texture, and more. The elements enable viewers to not only describe what the artist has done, but also analyse the piece in depth. Art that utilises these important elements with skill allows us to communicate our thoughts better, using a common language.
Examples of artists that use these six elements
There are many examples of abstract artworks that use a variety of these elements to their advantage. Wassily Kandinsky and Piet Mondrian are examples of abstract artists who created compositions that embody these elements perfectly. Both are considered the first to achieve a truly abstract visual language in paintings with their use of line, form, shape, and colour, but each deploys them very differently. Kandinsky’s infamous abstract art piece ‘Composition VII’ (1913) may appear to be an unusual array of colours and shapes, but the artist was very precise about his use of each element. Put together with great purpose, this piece is fun and playful with its use of colour, line, and shapes creating a vortex-like design that draws the viewer in.
Whilst creating a similarly named artwork, Mondrian’s ‘Composition No. 2’ (1930) opts for a more serious approach to the elements. Its sharp black lines, coupled with more serious squares and rectangles filled with primary colours, the artist creates a sense of order within geometric abstraction.
As explained above, every composer considers the six elements when creating abstract art, but it is at the individual artist’s discretion which ones are pushed to the forefront. While some argue it is an outdated concept, what is undeniable is that they are the foundations on which any good art piece is built upon.
The six elements are integral to creating an interesting, innovative, and aesthetically pleasing work.
Whether it is by using line, value, colour, shape, form, or texture, the artist can utilise these fundamental elements to come up with something stylised and impactful. Understanding these elements as a viewer allows you to analyse, appreciate and discuss art at a higher level.
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