“I believe that in many ways, spiritual qualities and ideas can be more readily accessible in abstraction than they would be in representational art, where renderings of familiar things often carry with them conceptual baggage. This baggage can mislead or even prohibit the viewer from moving further up and further in to the spiritual which the artwork points.” Makoto Fujimura
As a graphic designer, someone who works primarily with representational works, I found myself slightly agreeing with Fujimura’s words. The way I understood Fujimura’s reference to conceptual baggage was differently.
His idea, reminded me of aesthetic theorist, Arnold Berleant, and his reference to the “aesthetic field.” The thought that one’s own experiences effect our interpretation of a work of art. I interpreted Fujimura’s thought similarly. I understood that it is sometimes easier to have preconceived ideas about a representational object than an abstract one. Those preconceived ideas, or “conceptual baggage” can often hinder us from getting to the spiritual that the art directs toward.
In the same way that we can have prejudices against people hinder is from truly getting to know them, the same can happen when there is conceptual baggage. Let’s take the ocean for example. There are many people who have differentiating feelings about water, let alone, big bodies of water. If someone who fears water and does not want to be reminded of a bad experience with swimming or big bodies of water, may find it more difficult to look at a landscape painting of the ocean. They may be reminded of a bad experience and therefore, never move past their fear to see the beauty of the piece.
Let’s take Katsushika Hokusai’s Great Wave Off Kanagawa when compared to Fujimura’s painting. With the fear of big bodies of water it may be difficult to see the beauty of the process and style of ukiyo-e. The craftsmanship and dedication committed to the piece. However, if the representational aspect is stripped away from the piece, it may be easier to view the piece.
I do believe that a representational piece is just as able to lead someone to the spiritual just as much as an abstract piece. When I view abstract art I am more inclined to admire the process of the making of the piece and therefore evokes emotions and engages me as if I had been there when the art was made. Representational art may do that, but it becomes more about the subject rather than the process. Although I do not completely agree that spiritual qualities and ideas are more accessible through abstract pieces, I could understand his thought process.