Improvisation in Abstraction

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Robert Linsley explores the idea of improvisation in relation to abstract painting.

Linsley writes: "Improvisation does not mean pulling art out of thin air. It is a congerie of techniques that enable the possibility that the new will appear, the foremost of which is repetition—at least that’s what we can learn from Jazz. The Jazz musician/composer aims to create a music, and it is built gradually, over time, by constantly working through a set of motifs, repertoires, devices, mannerisms, techniques, so that the relation between the elements is incrementally changed until the whole edifice, a life’s work, stands apart—a unique construction. This is an eminently pragmatic and realistic approach, because it doesn’t set impossible standards of extempore achievement. Improvisation is more akin to normal living than it is to flights of virtuoso artistic skill. And yet, great improvisers usually are virtuosos, it’s just that they have set their own standards of skill. It turns out that skills are best learned in the act of creation, and so one’s artistic beginnings can be set by—education ceases to be determining. Beautiful and highly individual musical idioms may be based on unusual fingerings or 'incorrect' voicings which have been mastered beyond habit."

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