There are a few ways of looking at it . Firstly non-figurative, meaning not intended to look “like” anything. This could be geometric like the images of Mondrian, or splashes and dribbles of paint; action painting Tachism as practised by Jackson Pollock
Secondly a distillation where the natural world as seen through a camera lens has been reduced to basics; where there is a semblance of reality but it has been “reduced” where inessentials have been weeded out, trees reduced to lollipops for example with no leaves. Picasso and Braque with their Cubism pioneered this approach. The ultimate abstract image was a blank canvas by Malevich.
The development of abstract art was essentially western but it owed a lot to primitive Oceanic images mainly sculptural and much of the Zen calligraphy from the East. The above is a very much simplified version of how abstract painting is perceived, as it could be said that there are as many interpretations as there are artists! At the end of the day how one paints and perceives the world is very personal. My own development as an “Abstract” painter is based on many factors that have evolved over time and experience. In the art world, it is very easy to get to pigeonholed. By this, I mean that the public, and dealers in particular, like to identify a painter by set parameters; e.g Figurative portraitist, hyperreal landscapist, a flower painter.
This takes into no account the way an artist can change in attitude, taste or working methods. In my own experience, I have moved to express myself in many varied ways. One of those ways has taken me into the area of Abstraction – one of the most interesting of the paths I have taken.