Abstraction is the ability to generalize: an intellectual activity of the brain that can only succeed by excluding sentiment and emotion. The result can be a theoretical hypothesis, a mathematic formula, or a scientific analysis with rational conclusions. All very useful and important for many areas of human behavior and development. And very exciting when it leads to new inventions or better knowledge and understanding of reality. I’m the last one to trivialize the value of it. Mankind owes the greater part of civilisation and technology to it.
To translate the results of abstraction into concrete measures and facilities communication is indispensable. All kinds of “language” – meaningful sequences of sounds, movements, images and/or letters, or a combination of these – can be used for this purpose.
When a message doesn’t contain more than the results of abstraction, it serves as a utility, having no other objective than to provide information for practical purposes, such as government, industry, science, and art as well.
Mind you, this doesn’t mean that all these activities cannot be executed without abstract information. In fact, a good part of it, especially in government and art, doesn’t make any use of it at all. Now back to art.
Art uses the same “languages” as any message – sounds, images, letters, movements - but not purely rational. Apart from facts and abstractions art also communicates feelings, emotions and sentiments, using not only the brain but every tool available to human beings. That way the messages are extended with craftsmanship and filled with life. Even when the artist uses only abstractions as the basis for a work, he/she will always give it a unique identity, and the result will be surprising, moving and beautiful instead of only useful. Art personalizes the general. That's the opposite of abstraction.