Monday 21 February 2011

Moving from the real to the abstract in painting

I have always enjoyed looking for the abstract – even the most realistic image has abstract elements. In ‘an abstract’ a brief summary of a research article or thesis – complex research is succinctly communicated. In an abstract painting, the image is reduced to the essential elements.
The visual language of colour, shape, line and texture creates a new reality in the painting.
Pumula Rocks II  -oil on canvas - 914mm x 914mm
© Carol Lee Beckx
My inspiration is often an image, a photograph I have taken, that, on the face of it, is realistic. Photographing the coast at different times and under different weather conditions developed my interest in the rocks, sea and sand as subject.

 The Rock Series started with paintings that were realistic in execution and intent. As the series progressed, I became engrossed with finding sections of my reference that possessed abstract compositional elements that I could utilise.
Heavier impasto paint, layered and incised, and glazes of colours all contribute to the expression of monumentality and permanence. The textured paint builds up the surface and creates shadows that blur the boundaries between a flat canvas and three-dimensional relief.
Pumula Rocks III - oil on canvas 914mm x 760mm
© Carol Lee Beckx

There remains a semblance of reality – the paintings are not totally abstract. The use of colour becomes more arbitrary and unrelated to the reality of the rocks. The character of the rock also lends itself to the drawn line - calligraphic marks are used to express its textural qualities. The paintings become abstract constructs.


  1. Incredible scenery and wonderful paintings - love the colors!

  2. Very interesting to see your reference photos and paintings. I have noticed my cityscapes moving more towards the abstract recently, too. It's exciting but challenging territory, at least for me - I'm much less confident in my abstract work. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Thanks for visiting, Jul - looking for abstract shapes is really exciting.

  4. I really enjoyed seeing your examples and hearing your experience. Abstraction is definitely higher level thinking! Thanks for sharing....