Look and Listen | Meditative Abstraction

Beyond its historical, cultural, and aesthetic functions, art can be a source of mindfulness and meditation for its viewers. Pairing the following artworks with soundscapes, Devon Mifflin '21 asks listeners to also consider the meditative qualities of their abstract compositions. 


Hans (Jean) Arp, Abstraction, not dated.

Listen to "Message from the Other Lands" by Lama House while your eyes wander within Jean Arp's Abstraction. Like the screenprint, the soundscape is strong but unabrasive. Notice how the amorphous forms in Arp's composition drift towards each other but do not come close enough to touch. Lama House's song and Arp's composition build up suspense, ultimately releasing an overwhelming sense of calmness.

Image: Hans (Jean) Arp, Abstraction, not dated, screenprint on wove paper. 


George Vander Sluis, Untitled, not dated.

As you look at George Vander Sluis's screenprint, listen to Coldplay's short song, "Mylo Xyloto." Like Sluis's artwork, Coldplay's song seems to unfold before us. The colorful prism in Sluis's composition expands three-dimensionally into the viewer's space. Allow your eyes to slide along the flat and colorful planes of the prism and notice how your impression of the shapes changes as the song increases in pace. 

Image: George Vander Sluis, Untitled, not dated, screenprint on wove paper. 


George Morrison, Untitled (Antibes-1953-April), 1953.

As you become aware of all of the interlocking forms in George Morrison's composition, listen to "The Deepest Well" by Lionheart. Morrison's composition simultaneously grows towards the bottom of the composition like a root system and extends towards the top of the paper like branches of a tree. Though he connects them like pieces of a puzzle, Morrison leaves an almost imperceptible border around each block of color. As you allow your eyes to follow this negative space and trace each shape, take notice of the powerful background reverberations in Lionheart's song.

Image: George Morrison, Untitled (Antibes-1953-April), 1953, watercolor on notebook paper. 


Joan Mitchell, Untitled, about 1959.

As your eyes take in Untitled by Joan Mitchell, listen to "Higher Ground (Reprise) - Instrumental" by ODESZA. Mitchell's composition consists of enthusiastic strokes in bold hues as well as softer marks in quiet tones. As the soundscape of ODESZA's music builds, consider the layered quality of Mitchell's work. A dichotomy between exuberance and gentleness exists in both the artwork as well as in the music. While your eyes move around Mitchell's composition, notice how its ostensibly contradictory elements create a sense of balance and harmony.  

Image: Joan Mitchell, Untitled, about 1959, oil pastel and oil paint on wove paper. 

"Look and Listen" is a student playlist project. Think of how your own favorite songs could fit with a work of art and share a playlist with us on any social media platform by tagging @HoodMuseum or using the hashtag #HoodMuseum.

Written by Devon Mifflin '21, Digital Engagement Project Intern at the Hood Museum of Art, Summer 2020 

Meditative Abstraction



Written July 07, 2020