Sunday, October 13, 2013

Re: [Yasmin_discussions] the root of all evil

Abstraction in art is when you have a work that is abstracted from something. It doesn't need to be figurative - it can be non-representational in the sense that it doesn't resemble what it is abstracted from. However, the work still has it's roots in something other than itself.

The concrete in art is when you have a work that makes no reference to anything outside itself. It's only subject is itself. Such works are purely formalist.

I would argue that purely formalist art is an impossibility, just as work that is indistinguishable from what it represents is impossible. Pure formalism isn't possible as everything is linked to something, if not most things, in some way. Even purist minimal formalism, such as the work of Max Bill, makes reference to something. In Bill's case he makes reference to the Modernist reductivist ethic and mathematics. A work like Malevich's White Square on White, which many consider a precursor to purist formalism, makes reference to theosophy and notions of the sublime. Beyond these issues there is the problem that a work exists as received by the reader, not as intended by the writer. The writer cannot control what the reader will bring to the work - and the reader will always bring something, contextualising and grounding the work in some kind of referential relationship.

Realism and formalism are the ever receding impossible targets that some artists have pursued in their desire for perfection. I'm no Buddhist - but a middle (perhaps messy) way seems wise in this context. That's why I still think post-modernism has wings - it is premised on the messy way.



Sent from a mobile device, thus the brevity.

Simon Biggs

On 12 Oct 2013, at 18:27, Paul Fishwick <> wrote:

I would like to better understand how artists use the word "abstract" since it
might be at odds with the non-art definition. From my understanding of your
argument, concrete art is a type of abstract art and concrete art presumably has
no representation whereas abstract art can be representational of some external
phenomenon (or "figurative")? So that I can educate myself on how artists use
the word "abstract," can you provide an artistic example of something that is considered
abstract by art historians but that is in fact figurative? I would hope also that art
historians have definitions of "concrete" vs. "abstract" by virtue of formal characteristics
of a work, rather than as a function of when it was produced or by whom. In other words, we
should be able to apply your definitions of abstract and concrete to arbitrary creations.

On Oct 11, 2013, at 2:58 PM, Paul Brown <> wrote:

> Hi Roger
> My comments were certainly not meant to undermine the value of art/science/engineering collaboration/education but just intended to comment on the misuse of the word 'abstract' in an earlier post.
> In the UK (and possibly elsewhere in the English language users world) the word abstract is often confused with 'non figurative'. As someone who studied with the British system's artists in the 1960's and 70's I believe that the genre which we can roughly describe with the term art concret is one that is closest to science in it's basic remit (about discovering things) although the abstractionist Bierdermann believed the same.
> Well, anyway, I'm sorry if my comments were not clear.
> All the best
> Paul
> On 11 Oct 2013, at 04:40, roger malina <> wrote:
>> yasminers
>> I never imagine that my referring to the web site
>> on the need to contextual mathematics would launch
>> this discussion on the root of all evil but paul and simon's
>> responses have focused the discussion on the basic argument
>> that the root bernstein's are making about the evidence that

Yasmin_discussions mailing list

Yasmin URL:

HOW TO SUBSCRIBE: click on the link to the list you wish to subscribe to. In the page that will appear ("info page"), enter e-mail address, name, and password in the fields found further down the page.
HOW TO UNSUBSCRIBE: on the info page, scroll all the way down and enter your e-mail address in the last field. Enter password if asked. Click on the unsubscribe button on the page that will appear ("options page").
HOW TO ENABLE / DISABLE DIGEST MODE: in the options page, find the "Set Digest Mode" option and set it to either on or off.