The Ultimate Guide to Abstract Photography Wall Art
Photography, like any form of art, is meant to tell a story. But it isn’t always obvious what that story is. This is what sets abstract photography apart from more conventional styles; you, the buyer, the owner, or the collector are free to decide what it means and how to enjoy it. This makes it a powerful tool for interior design, and abstract wall art can bring a much-needed degree of creativity, intellectualism, and flair to the spaces you inhabit.
What Is Abstract Photography
Abstract photography is any piece where the subject matter, the setting, or the composition is obscure. Compositions are created from real-world objects and places, but arranged or viewed from such an angle or distance that it is no longer clear what one is looking at. Editing and filters can also make colors more vibrant, reveal alien spectrums, or remove them entirely. Shadows can be blackened, tinted, or even reversed to create a negative image.
There’s no limit to the fascinating and unusual techniques photographers can use to transform their work into something more ambiguous and vague. The photographer’s aim in creating an abstract piece can also vary. Perhaps they wanted to highlight an interesting texture, capture a specific combination of hues, or investigate the interplay of light and shadow. Oftentimes, there is no concrete answer; a photographer will simply be taken with the relation of shapes, elements, and light in a scene and be inspired to share this ineffable combination with others.
The end result, however, is always the same. Pieces are opaque, vague, and inscrutable, but striking, eye-catching, and unique. Their very mystery is what draws people to them.
What’s Special About Abstract Photography
People and spaces engage differently with abstract art than they do with more classical styles. There are no landscapes, people, or household objects to create a narrative with, so viewers are driven to make up their own. Nebulous similarities and associations must be probed to elucidate any sort of meaning or sense of place or location. Maybe it looks like the ripples in a pond or the texture of a large stone; perhaps it resembles an endless forest seen from above.
Abstract photography is more stimulating than many other forms and styles because one has to tap into their own creative faculties. Whether you’re trying to figure out what it is or just what it looks like, you’re putting a lot more effort into understanding it than you would with an ordinary piece. This can make a work of abstract wall art both the visual and intellectual focal point of a room.
What’s more, no explanation will ever be final. Abstract works are open to continuous reinterpretation by you and any friends, guests, or relatives who see it. Possessing an abstract work over time is like owning many different works or one which changes with the days, the seasons, and your own mood. One could even go so far as to say these pieces have a living quality of their own.
Types of Abstract Photography
Though the techniques of making abstract art are practically limitless, works can be broadly categorized by their visual cues.
Minimalist pieces center around the scarcity of visual elements. Works may feature large empty areas with little or nothing going on. These negative spaces are usually accentuated by the presence of a singular form or various smaller elements dispersed throughout the area. These can be dashes of color, unknown shapes, or anything tangible and definable as some sort of “positive” object. These works are all about the graceful opposition between presence and absence and the interaction of space with volume.
Many abstract works can be called textural. These feature repeating patterns or shapes which fill the entire frame. Sometimes they can look like alluvial plains or the branches of a tree, other times more like fabric or brickwork. This repetition draws the eye and one finds themselves looking for deviations from the regular order or else trying to figure out where they’ve seen the pattern before.
Other photographers center their compositions around color or shape. Bright neons and subtle pastels collide with each other in a battle or harmony of shapes and fields. The resulting print is filled with extremely complex yet visually basic relations of hue and size. These pieces appeal to deep and unconscious connections we make between color, space, and feeling. They are a feast for the eyes that unlocks hidden areas of the mind.
There are practically infinite types of abstract art, and few will fit into any of these artificial categories nicely, but having a basic idea of the kinds of pieces out there is an important starting point on the way to choosing a piece of your own.
How and Where to Hang It
Abstract art is a mental and emotional exercise, so how do you present such an object in a space? Here, we are talking about wall art, so that narrows the options down, but which wall you choose and how you hang it can have a variety of different effects.
First, you’ll need to figure out how a piece relates to its background. Simpler pieces tend to blend into the walls behind them, so framing may be necessary for proper presentation. In some cases, however, placing boundaries on a work might seem to compress or confine it, and it is better instead to let it flow into the room naturally. Generally, if a work is bold enough to speak on its own, you need not frame it. If it’s a more subtle or minimal piece, a frame might help draw proper attention to it.
Similar considerations have to be made with location. Is the piece supposed to be the focus of the room or part of a larger decorative framework? Placing an abstract fine art photograph in a place people gather and can see it, like a living room, dining room, or foyer, ensures people will admire, talk about, and ponder it. It doesn’t have to dominate the space, but placing pieces in hallways, stairways, or even bedrooms can run the risk of having them be ignored, and no art should be made invisible.
Lighting Your Artwork
Lighting also has an effect on how abstract works are perceived. You’ll want to avoid placing photographs in dark corners or halls, because no one will see them. Bright lights, however, can also detract from the impact of a piece.
Brilliant white lights might bring too much attention to a piece, making the space seem more like a museum than a decorated room and causing viewers to ignore other features and artworks. Generally, you’ll want to be able to see the piece, but not be shocked by it. Some kinds of light can also damage works, so a happy medium is best.
The angle of lighting also counts. Toplighting tends to be the most flattering, but you’ll need to take into account how people are going to be looking at it. Many fine art photographs are printed on glossy paper, metal plates, or are housed behind glass in a frame. Make sure your lighting scheme doesn’t create distracting reflections which obscure the work or blind viewers.
Is Bigger Better? Choosing The Right Size of Art
The factor which has the greatest effect on how noticeable a piece is is its size. This will determine how well it’s seen, how it fits with the decor around it, and how open the surrounding space feels.
A single large piece instantly draws the eye and becomes the focal point of any space. It will spawn conversations, draw viewers closer, and leave a memorable impression. Singular works tend to have walls to themselves, leaving a great deal of the area around them untouched. This means the space feels larger and cleaner—a much more minimalist aesthetic. Large pieces can anchor a space together, but also distract people from its other aspects. Big art can also be expensive, so if you’re already decided on one monolithic work, you should be prepared to fund it.
A collection of smaller pieces offers more to look at. Viewers can shift their gaze from one piece to the next and contemplate how they fit together. Spreading more diminutive works around a room can also be a means of adding to the texture of a space without distracting from or drawing too much attention to any one part. These pieces are also cheaper and allow you to choose more than one. For those who are true lovers of abstract art, this is the best option, as one singular piece simply won’t be enough.
Coordination and Flow
The last, and perhaps most important consideration when it comes to abstract art is how well it communes with the space it’s in. Even the most stunning photograph can be at odds with its surroundings, and to truly bring out the beauty and uniqueness of a piece, it has to flow with what’s around it.
Consider the style of the space. What kinds of furniture and decor are there? If you like older pieces (Victorion, Mission, etc.), an abstract piece might make the room seem disjointed. Mod, Bauhaus, and even Ikea furniture would create a better setting—one with a less concretized narrative and fewer busy details. The same general rules apply for pottery, sculpture, knick-knacks, and other smaller items. While juxtaposing an abstract work on an opposed design scheme might be interesting and draw further attention to the artwork, the effect will be less pleasing and interesting than when everything is properly coordinated.
Color is an important thing to keep in mind as well, but here the rules are less stringent. Matching the core colors of an artwork with the walls or hues of other household items can create a seamless visual flow which ties the whole space together. Put an orange work on a blue wall, and it will stick out. But this can be interesting too, and having combinations of two or three colors might actually look better than having everything in the same shade.
You’ll know if a piece fits with what’s around it, so don’t be shy about experimenting, but remember: a piece of art should tie a room together, not put it into disarray.
Abstract photography combines all that is beautiful and captivating about the real world and the realm of painting. While there are no rules to abstract composition, there are guidelines to how these works should be presented and displayed. The right work in the right place can not only revolutionize your space, but fire the imagination as well.