In Western art at least, abstract painting has been around since the first decade of the 20th century. The path of reduction, where unnecessary information is gradually removed from an image for a variety of reasons, is a well-travelled one. Kandinsky, Malevich, the Cubists and the Fauves eschewed description for expressive or analytical purposes and changed art forever. Influenced by non-European art (Africa, Japan), an appreciation of the essential mark grew, of art that was a distillation of experience , leaving the unique hand of the artist on the work.
Symbolism was another path to abstraction, where early practitioner Gustave Moreau identified a natural progression away from recognisable objects to an idea. Paul Klee embraced the simplicity of children’s art with his decorative and magical mythmaking that introduced a new way of seeing. On the whole though, these artists (not Malevich) remained anchored in the visual world. They took their inspiration from the world and vestiges of that world remained in the paintings and sculptures they made.