The concept Formalism calls an art-historical method of the interpretation of a piece of art. Besides, the value of the work lies in the autonomy of the form. The formalistic consideration of art stresses qualities as for example composition, colour, lines and texture. Content aspects and relations like subject, history of the origin of the work, historical context and biography of the artist, are secondary or are not treated.
The formalists, as the most important representatives Heinrich Wölfflin and Alois Riegl, aimed at a comparative style analysis which is freely from personal evaluation and is able to solve the *hermeneutics problem of the art history. The formalistic ideas of 19. Cent. served the modern painting as an impulse to develop more freely and to concentrate upon the aesthetic effect from form and structure. The concept of the formalism leaves open itself therefore also on the fine art expand, e.g.
in the 20th century from the art-historical methodology has become an art creation methodology. Formalism dominated modern art from the late 1800s through the 1960s.
History of formalism (wikipedia)
The concept of formalism can be traced as far back as Plato, who argued that ‘eidos’ (or shape) of a thing included our perceptions of the thing, as well as those sensory aspects of a thing which the human mind can take in. Plato argued that eidos included elements of representation and imitation, since the thing itself could not be replicated. Subsequently, Plato believed that eidos inherently was deceptive.
In 1890, the Post-impressionist painter Maurice Denis wrote in his article ‘Definition of Neo-Traditionism’ that a painting was ‘essentially a flat surface covered in colours arranged in a certain order.’ Denis argued that the painting or sculpture or drawing itself, not the subject of the artistic work, gave pleasure to the mind.
Denis’ emphasis on the form of a work led the Bloomsbury writer Clive Bell to write in his 1914 book, Art, that there was a distinction between a thing’s actual form and its ‘significant form.’ For Bell, recognition of a work of art as representational of a thing was less important than capturing the ‘significant form’, or true inner nature, of a thing. Bell’s work harkened back to the Aristotelian concept of general forms and ‘species.’ For Aristotle, that an animal was a dog was not important; that a dog was a Dalmatian or an Irish wolfhound was. Echoing this line of thought, Bell pushed for an art that used the techniques of an artistic medium to capture the essence of a thing (its ‘significant form’) rather than its mere outward appearance.
Throughout the rest of the early part of the 20th Century, European structuralists continued to argue that ‘real’ art was expressive only of a thing’s ontological, metaphysical or essential nature. But European art critics soon began using the word ‘structure’ to indicate a new concept of art. By the 1930s and 1940s, structuralists reasoned that the mental processes and social preconceptions an individual brings to art are more important than the essential, or ‘ideal’, nature of the thing. Knowledge is created only through socialization and thought, they said, and a thing can only be known as it is filtered through these mental processes. Soon, the word ‘form’ was used interchangeably with the word ‘structure’.
In 1940, the American art critic Clement Greenberg, in an influential piece in Partisan Review, argued that the value of art was located in its form. The representational aspects of a work of art are less important than those aspects which embody a thing’s ‘internal identity’. This led Greenberg to the conclusion that abstraction was the purest art of all.
Greenberg also perceived that impressionism had blurred the boundaries between various art forms. This led to a ‘confusion of the arts’, he wrote, and a lack of purity in artistic endeavor. Defining a work of art by its ‘art form’, or medium, limits a work’s artistic possibilities to the nature of that medium. Yet, this also allows the work of art to stand alone on its own merits.
The concept of formalism in art continued to evolve through the 20th century. Some art critics argue for a return to the Platonic definition for form as a collection of elements which falsely represent the thing itself and which are mediated by art and mental processes. A second view argues that representational elements must be somewhat intelligible, but must still aim to capture the object’s ‘form’. A third view argues for a diale-discursive ontological knowledge. Instead, structuralists focused on how the creation of art communicate the idea behind the art. Whereas formalists manipulated elements within a medium, structuralists purposely mixed media and included context as an element of the artistic work. Whereas formalism’s focus was the aesthetic experience, structuralists played down response in favor of communication.
Structuralism’s focus on the ‘grammar’ of art reaches as far back as the Post-Impressionist work of Marcel Duchamp. In many ways, structuralism draws on the tools of formalism without adopting the theory behind them.
What Is Hyperformalism?
DCSpensley, 17 May 2006(created 4 April 2006)
“Hyperformalism is an aesthetic philosphical construct that may be employed by to describe a late 20th century, early 21st century mass art phenomena consisting of scores of personal computer users generating abstract, often spacially unique artworks with software tools.
These spacial realities have no analog in the physical world, and instead of making reference to physical reality, create a unique continuum of reference; a rearrangement of photons to illuminate alternate worlds of form, shape, color and space.
The term Hyperformalism is derived from the combination of the words Hyper and Formalism (as described by WikiPedia) and is being used here to describe aesthetic self expression without anthropomorphic, or representative context. This seperates Hyperformalism from digital collage, aesthetic photo manipulation and other forms.”
Hyperformalism is a critical construct that may be employed by to describe a late 20th century, early 21st century mass art phenomena consisting of scores of personal computer users generating abstract, often spacially unique artworks with software tools…these spacial realities have no analog in the physical world, and instead of making reference to reality, create a unique continuum of reference; a rearrangement of photons to illuminate alternate worlds of form, shape, color and space.
*Essentially, hermeneutics involves cultivating the ability to understand things from somebody else’s point of view, and to appreciate the cultural and social forces that may have influenced their outlook. Hermeneutics is the process of applying this understanding to interpreting the meaning of written texts and symbolic artifacts (such as art or sculpture or architecture), which may be either historic or contemporary.