How does the process of abstraction create a relationship between the landscape and art within it?
Well we should probably look no further than the man who developed the process of abstraction, Robert Irwin. He thought that art was a useful tool in creating a personal perception of the world and being able to find art and beauty in almost anything. He wanted art to be experiential, a physical out of body experience if it was possible. The quote contains Irwin’s process of an abstract thought:
He explained later that the conception of an abstract thought occurs in the mind, through the concept of self. Following, the physical form is then recognized, communicating the form to the community. Then, the Objective compound occurs, delineating behavioral norms and artistic norms, becoming identifiable. Then the boundaries and axioms introduce logic and reasoning and decisions can be made: either inductive or deductive. Formalism follows, proving and convincing a decision about the object being perceived.
ASLA’s The Dirt, brings to light a conference that Mr. Irwin spoke at earlier this year. It so happened that his lecture was titled On the Nature of Abstraction, befitting isn’t it. Irwin delves into his perception and beliefs of abstraction which I happened to study a few years ago.
The process of abstraction stems from Irwin’s understanding of the pre-cognitive and cognitive thought process. The pre-cognitive being the most basic of elements that make up an image in the mind: light, edge, and color. The cognitive would be: scale, value, hue, texture, rhythm, and figure.
At the beginning stages of abstraction, your focus is to be precise, not panoramic. Normally we find ourselves trying to look at the big picture when developing a design or an idea, something that helps to create a perception of place. Irwin believes in the reverse. Find something that is unique, a phenomenon in the landscape, and narrow your thought process and dumb-down your ideas to the basics; back to light, edge, and color.
Irwin described a phenomenon in his process as the moment one realizes the unique qualities of light, edge, and color interacting to form a cognitive thought.
That leads us to the cognitive mindset, which uses scale, value, hue, texture, rhythm, and figure. At this point one combines light, edge, and color with the aforementioned cognitive thoughts to create an abstraction, a new understanding of your environment.
This is the most basic of explanations to a process that Irwin took his time perfecting. It may seem like a simple process, but I have found that using his method of abstraction has really helped me to develop as a designer. He has made me think more outside the box. We can see in today’s new landscapes that landscapes and environments are greater abstractions of a smaller element, and that being the point of the phenomenon.