In 2001, art historian James Elkins declared that “There is no survey to prove it, but it is likely that the majority of people who have wept over twentieth-century paintings have done so in front of Rothko’s paintings.” Mark Rothko does not depict sad people or tragic scenes, but instead expansive swathes of abstracted colour.
Abstract art can be hard to understand or talk about. Despite this, it continues to be one of the world’s most popular genres, conjuring everything from ecstasy to melancholy, tranquillity and intrigue. How can we make sense of this? And how can we talk about abstract art with others?