Over many years of selling and writing about art books, I have been asked whether it would be possible to grade books according to whether they are intended for the beginner, intermediate or advanced student. The true answer is: no. This is largely because all books contain something that will be of value to all those groups but also, it should be said, because one person’s beginner is another’s expert. I’ve spoken to people who’ve been painting for all of a few months and have nothing left to learn, but also to a professional portraitist who was buying what seemed to me a very elementary book. The explanation in that case (I had to ask) was, “If I get one idea from it, it’ll be worthwhile”.
All of which is a lengthy preamble to saying that this is very much a book for the advanced student. Yes, there are exercises and demonstrations here, but the bulk of the book is devoted to a discussion of approaches, analyses and working methods – the practice, in short, of abstract painting. It is, of course, all the better for that and anyone who has felt frustrated at the elementary approach of the books that have appeared so far will breathe a huge sigh of relief. Abstraction is as much a state of mind as a technical exercise and one that needs to be understood as much as taught. For something so deeply visual in terms of speaking to its audience, it’s also something that needs to be talked about in order to crystallise and understand the intellectual processes that go into it.
As well as those worked examples (let’s call them that), there are plenty of other illustrations and the aforesaid discussions of interpretation and working methods. The authors are father and daughter, the one a professional abstract landscapist, the other an experienced art writer. As well as the personal connection you also get the best of two worlds – top-quality writing as well as painting. This really is a stupendous book.
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