I wonder which is primary: realism or abstraction?
An interesting question.
When we look back to the earliest cave paintings and stone carvings we see an abstraction of reality. The Minoan's, Persians, Egyptians, Greeks, etc...all used some form of abstracted thought in their interpretations of themselves. Over the millenia mankind has artistically interpreted the world perceived with varying ratios of abstraction and realism. It may be safer to say that it isn't one or the other that is man's destiny. Instead we are both....abstract and realistic....just as we are good and bad, creative and destructive. Our attempts at excising one or the other from our makeup maybe paramount to removing a part of ourselves.
These ancient works are examples, I think, of man searching for a 'realistic' portrayal of himself and his life experience, but they bear the mark of a creative abstraction that comes from the soul and not the world around. It is a marriage of two parts that makes the whole.