Figurative art refers to paintings, sculptures, and other visual art that depict real-life objects in an abstract or symbolic manner.
Figurative art is any type of art where the subject matter is recognizable from the real world, hence it shares a “likeness” of shapes, objects, figures, or even places. Sometimes it is also called Figurativism. It is not the same as figure artworks, which directly focus on depicting the human (or animal) figure as the primary subject matter.
Figurative art, also referred to as representational art is a piece of art that’s similar to the real subject itself. Whether in painting or drawing, figurative art represents the original image – it’s an attempt at direct imitation (mimesis) of the original subject and human form – animate or inanimate. For instance, a portrait of a man smoking cigarette painted on a canvas is representational because one can easily decipher what the subject is. This can fall under realism.
Figurative art refers to a general category of artworks that represent recognizable object sources, the human figure or material in the real world. In line with the overall objective of visual art, figuration is an attempt at achieving realistic representation of both animate and inanimate objects via accurate artistic expression. In reality, figurative painting takes different forms – it ranges from photo-realism to abstraction.
Figurative art can be used to communicate a message.
To ensure that figurative paintings do elicit a reaction in the viewer, it’s the artist’s job to keep working and making whatever feels most important in the moment. “If an artist is compelled to make an image,” offered Nguyen, “they should do so without overthinking its urgency or its reasoning to exist—figuring out those big-stake questions takes a lot of time and deep reflection.”
As mentioned before, this kind of artwork is usually also representational, as the artist has at least some sort of reference to work from. However, there are artists that do not use any particular reference, but apply their knowledge of Elements of Art and Color Psychology in order to very effectively transmit emotion.
Communication through art can be achieved in many ways that don’t rely on words. Sometimes they’re obvious, like a celebratory image of a political leader. But other times, artworks communicate through elements you might not notice at first, like the choice of colors, composition (the underlying form and how elements relate to one another), or how the forms are either put together or fractured.
Figurative art can be used to make a statement.
“Neither is there figurative and non-figurative art. All things appear to us in the shape of forms. Even in metaphysics ideas are expressed by forms. Well then, think how absurd it would be to think of painting without the imagery of forms. A figure, an object, a circle, are forms; they affect us more or less intensely.”-Pablo Picasso
This is not going to be an opinion-driven post bashing either abstract or figurative artwork or anything in between. This will not be a rant about how much I dislike either style and, much less, a criticism towards artists of any kind. Au contraire, my friend!
As artists, we should make time to explore both representational/figurative and abstract art throughout our journeys because it will enhance the outcome of our work. I believe we should always seek improvement and be willing to step out of our comfort zones.