Let me start by hurtling us, with little warning, about 100 years back in time. In 1925, the Spanish philosopher Jose Ortega y Gasset compared looking at modern art to staring through a window at a garden. The viewer can look through the window to see the shrubs and colorful flowers, or the viewer can adjust their “ray of vision” so that it stops at the window, resulting in a “confused mass of color which appears pasted to the pane.”
In this conception, OyG was noticing that more and more modern artists were ignoring the pretty scene outside and instead focusing on the jumbled mass of colors. A few decades earlier, the Impressionists were purposefully squinting at their landscapes and other subjects to reduce clarity and increase focus on the more subjective, personalized impact of colors and light.
And so, this metaphor provides us with alternate approaches to creating art as well as viewing it. The artist can adjust their viewpoint and focus on the representation of the world outside, the depiction of landscapes or other scenes. Their painting becomes a window into another world. Or, the artist can shift the focus of their painting to subjective experiences, personal impressions, or formal concerns that don’t provide the viewer with an illusion of space.