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Gestural Abstraction

Joan Mitchell
To the Harbormaster, 1957
193 x 300 cm (76 x 118.13 in.)
Oil on canvas
Private Collection
© Estate of Joan Mitchell
Photo: Tony Prikryl/Aksart Lp

Gestural abstraction is a term often used to describe a style of art that emphasizes expressive and vigorous mark-making. In this genre, artists use bold and dynamic brushstrokes to convey their emotions and psychological states on the canvas. It is a form of abstraction that goes beyond the representation of the visible world, delving into the realm of pure form and emotion.

This dynamic approach to mark-making finds resonance in various artistic traditions, including East Asian calligraphy, where the artist expresses their mental and emotional state through the pressure, rhythm, and speed of their brushstrokes. It's also evident in the works of renowned artists like Joan Mitchell, Jackson Pollock and Cy Twombly, who were pioneers of gestural abstraction in Western art. They employed a diverse range of techniques, such as dabbing, pouring, pulling, smearing, and streaking paint, to translate their innermost thoughts and feelings onto the canvas.

In the contemporary art scene, artists like Spencer Lewis and Donna Huanca continue to embrace this energetic tradition. Their artworks resonate with viewers through the expressive quality of their brushwork and the evocative lines they create. By doing so, they carry the legacy of gestural abstraction into the present day, inviting audiences to explore the profound intersection of emotion, intuition, and artistic expression.

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