Abstract Expressionism is a release of emotions encompassing non-figurative form. Created during a period that took place after the Second World War, feelings were raw. Artist’s of this generation took their distinct experiences and articulated them on canvas as a response to the political and social upheaval. Thus, the act of painting itself became the focus for this period in time, soon to be recognized as the New York School, or in everyday terms, this movement became known as Abstract Expressionism. By applying paint to a canvas spontaneously and/or unconsciously, the images they would create would serve as a manifestation of the most profound level of being.
The artists’ work now became objective through the gaze from the outside viewer, who would be confronted with large canvases painted without a direct subject matter. This ideal stands as the underlying difference between the School of Paris and the New York School. Artists from France never truly abandoned the notion of content. Contrastingly, the New York School painters tried to go beyond that notion, figuratively.
Abstract Expressionists were trying to express the inexpressible. The means by which they achieved this, specifically, is through the abandonment of form, and rather, turn their focus to how colour and space affect the viewer. Such as is the case for two artists, Mark Rothko and Barnett Newman, leaders of one branch of Abstract Expressionism defined as colour-field painting (the other being gestural painting, led by Jackson Pollock). Knowingly, both artists painted in a way in which the viewer would be able to seek a sense of the Divine world. Thus an investigation of the unconsciousness, influenced by Symbolist and Surrealist art relate to the notion of “going beyond.” To the uniformed viewer who finds it difficult to relate to the works of the Abstract Expressionists, they have to reconcile that these paintings, which avoided the obvious, essentially, are more about “something” rather than “nothing.”