From figurative to abstract

Sometimes describing what we see when looking at a piece of art is not as easy as it seems. In this new series of blog posts, we at Artig Gallery want to demystify apparently complex terms of the artworld and explain some of the most relevant terms that characterize an artwork.
In the artworld, technical words are used to classify art by periods, styles or the creation process of an artist. In the past, art followed an aesthetic that fluctuated very little, in which the discourse of art was dictated by professionals, creating artistic styles and making the aesthetic trends last for years, even centuries.

In the modern world the discourse of art has ceased to be mono-directional to become a plurality in which the artist has the power to choose and express himself in a style that corresponds to his artistic needs. This aesthetic and technical plurality made necessary the use of words to describe the artistic styles, both practical and theoretical. Terms such as abstract, figurative, gestural or expressionist, geometric and purist, have existed since the beginning of the avant-garde styles, and even today are the basic terms used when describing a work of art, which is why we will show you the different styles through examples of art available at Artig Gallery. Pintura figurativa hiperrealista
Hyperrealistic figurative painting.

One of the first distinctions to make when looking at an artwork is the classification of what is represented between figuration or abstraction. If there are elements that imitate forms and figures that exists in our world, the can be called figurative. If on the contrary we do not recognize any natural element or human figure, the work is more abstract. Most people are more accustomed to figurative art that shows identifiable figures of the real world, like representations of flowers, food, animals, landscapes and the human figure.




Abstract expressionist painting by Peggy Cozzi. Abstract geometric painting by Savador Santos.

Abstract art refers to the artistic production that either transforms an object we know, or that show nonconcrete objects that generally come from the imagination of the artist, or from the world of ideas, like geometry. Abstract art has its origins in the creation of photography and the resulting emancipation of art from the need to represent our world. Among the first modern artists who developed the idea of art for art's sake and began to blur the limits of figuration towards abstraction, were Cézanne, Picasso, Matisse and Van Gogh.


expresionismo figurativo

Figurative expressionism painting by Isabel Rabassa. Figurative expressionism painting by Peter Vahlefeld.

Through Art History, several avant-garde movements were forming the future of the art discourse between abstraction and figuration, however in the middle of the 20th century artists started to individually select the style of art they wanted to develop in their career, which gave way to the appearance of mixed styles between figuration and abstraction, following expressionist and geometric trends. These styles are still being used today by artists all over the world. Abstract expressionism and geometric abstraction are abstract styles that have opposite pictorial interests. In abstract expressionism, the artist expresses his or her emotions freely, spontanteiy and chance are common in the creation process. Works belonging to this movement flow over with information and make the artist’s movements visible, through brushstrokes, repeated layers of paint and textures. Geometric abstraction on the contrary is a practice that allows the artist to play with colors and forms on the visual plane, studying and composing works through geometric figures.



Abstract geometric painting by Mireia Ruiz. Abstract geometric digital painting by Jesús Perea.


Figurative expressionism is a term used for paintings which, although they show gesture and expression through the brushstroke of the artist, let us recognize natural figures. Figurative geometric art refers to works in which the natural figures are represented through geometry and the use of basic geometric figures like circles, squares and triangles.




Surrealist figurative painting by Ricardo González. Figurative geometric painting by Marcos Peinado.


Today, contemporary art is defined by freedom of style, so in recent years a mix of different styles is prevalent in artistic practice. It is important to understand that in a work of art many a technical characteristic can coexist and some of Artig Gallery’s emerging artists show exactly what this means. Marcos Peinado for example creates works between figuration and abstraction through the use of geometry. The paintings of Jesús Perea on the other hand mix pure geometric abstraction and the study of figures and colors in the visual plane without figuration. Another style mix is presented by Mercé Girona’s oevre, which includes abstract expressionist paintings and geometrical abstraction. To appreciate and understand an artwork, one has to value its uniqueness in style and technique and try to understand the artist’s intentions.


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