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  • Writer's pictureHaydn Dickenson


Ok, I'm biased. I am an abstract artist.

I do a little figurative work – I used to do a lot more – sensual nude studies, mainly to commission; but it is through my abstract canvases that I am chiefly known, and it is through this avenue that success has come.

LIBERATION - Haydn Dickenson (2022)

Because abstraction is my passion, my constant creative preoccupation and my soul's direction, making art is naturally an intellectual and spiritual food for me. Thinking about this recently, I began to cogitate upon the notion that Abstraction is of especial benefit in enabling us to enter a world relatively untainted by the upsetting and disturbing quotidian aspects of twenty-first century life. We are surrounded by war, famine, a pandemic, a cost of living crises, a fuel crisis, corrupt politicians and more. These horrors are real, but they are also amplified by the mass media which, controlled by a global elite, seeks to frighten the population into submission.

This debilitating negativity, by which we seem to be increasingly bombarded, must be balanced by positivity. Stephen Hawking* tells us that, in astrophysics “the positive and the negative add up to zero, always”.

Thus it is in life. Zero is equilibrium. I suffer from severe mood swings and, while the dark episodes can be terrifying and disabling, without them I could not experience the elation that is on the other side of the coin, nor the 'zero' of tranquillity that can bring solace – though I cannot produce communicative Art if the sea in which I float is unremittingly calm!

Art is capable of delivering positivity, optimism and joy to our lives; for me, this is especially the case with Abstraction.


Without the Old Masters there would be no Abstraction, just as (and I have written here before on this subject) Mondrian's rarefied geometry could not have existed but for his Tree Studies that preceded them, or Picasso's Cubism without his Blue Period predating that revolutionary trajectory. Visiting galleries, I stand in profound reverence and admiration before the work of Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Titian, El Greco, Turner et al. I deeply admire and respect colleagues who are the producers of superb representational art; certain landscapes remind me of my earliest days in the world of painting when, encouraged by my mother, I would sit and paint in the fields, or draw village scenes. All this is the basis of everything.

Some representational art, however, can make me sad. Nostalgia or, to use that wonderful German word 'Sehnsucht' is apt to creep in. I wonder whether, perhaps, idyllic scenes of landscapes and rural life do enough to transport us away from the worldly horrors that cloud our current experience. The beauty of a landscape painting can often seem heartbreaking to me. Urban vistas may present a rawness to balance the bucolic idyll, but these too can remind us of deprivation and hardship, of dwindling resources, sorrow and desperation.

Conversely, abstract art presents its own dimensions; ones full of resonances and symbols. The earliest theosophist-abstractionists believed that marks and shapes contained spiritual significance more replete with 'reality' than the representational art which they considered to be an imitation of something that was already an illusion. Abstraction can lead us into a world where dreams or even a semi-hypnotic state are close-by. Like walking through the wardrobe into CS Lewis's Narnia, in a brief moment we find ourselves transported into a realm of pure visual beauty, of shapes that are exquisite in their own right, of marks than carry their own excitement and passion while remaining at least partly free of allusion.

My own abstract pictures have been described, on occasion, as 'sexy' while still qualifying as Pure Abstraction: also, variously, as poetic, musical, joyous and disturbing. Robert Motherwell tells us that “the function of abstraction is to get rid of reality”. In lifting ourselves onto another plane when we look at Abstract Art, simpler, purer and perhaps more spiritual resonances flood our senses.


Picasso believed that an abstract piece cannot 'begin with nothing'. I do not entirely agree, and am once again reminded of Stephen Hawking's assertion that, when you travel “...down to the sub-atomic level, you enter a world where conjuring something out of nothing is possible”. Of course I am employing a degree of poetic licence in borrowing from Professor Hawking's theories and applying them in an artistic context but, as my readers will know, my creative process invariably begins with virtually no preconception at all. This is why I make the analogy.

On the other hand, non-representational Art, once it is complete and alive on the canvas, can be suggestive, presenting marks so simple yet stimulating that whole worlds are conjured up when we engage with them.

A valued collector of my work generously wrote the following about my painting, A SAFE HAVEN:

I purchased Safe Haven in February 2021 and it is the third of Haydn Dickenson’s pieces that I have bought. I don’t tend to buy much abstract art but in the case of Safe Haven I was immediately drawn to it as it reminded me of the South West Coast Path near Bude in Cornwall. I have been a regular visitor to the area since I was a little girl and very much enjoy walking along the coastal path – it’s the contrasting colours, the sound of the Atlantic Ocean crashing against the cliffs and the vastness of it – it makes me feel so free but also reminds me of just how insignificant we all are and how unimportant our everyday worries really are.

Because of the Pandemic it had been a while since I had visited Bude – and I missed it! On seeing this reflective painting, I felt all the things I feel while walking along the coastal path and for that reason I just had to have it! I was also extremely taken by the title of the piece, Safe Haven because although I like trying new things, I also really value security as it enables me to challenge myself knowing that I have somewhere to retreat back to if everything falls apart. The painting continues to give me a lot of comfort and I am thrilled with it.”


In this way, abstraction offers a world richly brimming with fantasy and imagination. Whether we cross the divide into a soothing visual panacea, or into a vibrant bombardment of the senses, this is why we need Abstract Art today.

Copyright Haydn Dickenson 2023

*BRIEF ANSWERS TO THE BIG QUESTIONS - Stephen Hawking, 2018, pub John Murray

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22 janv. 2023

💙I am in love with your articles.💙

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