We’ve all seen a brilliant painting or photograph that left us in awe or jovial wonder or heard a musical composition that sent shivers down our spines. The ability of the art to reach beyond its physical constraints. Art allows us to reach beyond the simple notes or brush strokes of which it is most basically comprised, depends on our ability to create a coherent internal representation with symbolic association and value.
No one would look at a Rembrandt or Monet and describe it as an “agglomeration of oils on wood/fabric,” because we do not see the oils, but the shapes they represent on the canvas. When I look at (one of my favorite modern expressionists) a painting from Leonid Afremov then I do not simply see the acrylic oil, but I instead see/feel a beautiful scene and am filled with a deeper emotion.
A good impressionist can give you the feeling of being at a scene, capturing its essence, but a good expressionist gives you the feeling of living the scene. Whereas the impressionist derives the basic forms and figures within a scene, the expressionist seeks to put the emotional content of the scene in the foreground and is willing to adapt the actual scene into an emotional feeling through the use of colors and form.
It is this focus on the emotional content that allows an expressionist painter to recreate the same scene multiple times, whereas an impressionist may have difficulty remembering details of the original scene. It is for this reason that I appreciate not only the human ability to abstract an emotion into a color palette but also Leonid Afremov, who seems to be an incredibly hard working artist who does his best to make his work accessible to everyone. Afremov’s incredible use of vibrant colors to create a specific mood, and do so with the “crude” tool of the palette knife, is very pleasing to me.
What I mean when I say Afremov makes his works available to everyone is that he almost floods the market with reproductions of his own works so that more people can enjoy his work, enjoy the beauty, and enjoy having a real oil painting from a known artist for a reasonable price. He literally drives down the per unit price of his paintings in an attempt to make his work available even to those who aren’t rich. Leonid Afremov thus offers literally around a thousand emotional abstractions, different pieces of varying feeling, motif, and color palette. He has been creating paintings every day for years, and his body of work leaves enough motifs to satiate almost any wish, and tries to make this accessible.
Only with our ability to interpret emotion into sequential tones, melodies, dance routines, or the strokes of paint on a painting, we are creating a whole that is greater than the sum if its parts. In fact, our ability to abstract complex processes into symbols in not just what enables expressionism and abstract art, but also enables strategy.
The evolution of this type of thinking and organizing our thoughts about the world likely led to the first cave paintings corresponding to when we began to predict seasonal changes and learn to influence and optimize the environment we live in. Art isn’t something unimportant, but instead the predecessor of written history and education. Songs and ballads were a clear way to make history, or a set of ideals, easier to remember and communicate over generations. Art isn’t just visual, although I love visual art, and our ability to understand art is inextricable from our ability to organize our complex world into symbolic representations.
Art and all forms of abstract emotional expression can help us relax and look beyond our immediate circumstances. I feel alive through my ability to experience the world and am spiritually richer by extending this sight through the expression of others.
I want to thank Leonid Afremov and his family for allowing us to use his beautiful picture in the article.