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 Diana Billings Art Blog


Minimalism came out of New York in the 1960’s and is a movement looking for the dematerialization of the art object, making art that is simply designed through sculpture, paint and other mediums. Artist were trying the achieve having their art objects, be they a sculpture or painting, look as a united whole with out a focal point. Minimalist is also known as ABC Art, Object art and Primary Structure. Minimalism is the objection to what came before like abstractionism, cubism and surrealism. Looking for the piece or object to be interesting with as little as possible using the simplest forms of the material and using the material in the simplest way possible. Having specific objects placed in a real spaces, minimizing the surroundings and materials. Minimalism has changed the world and how we look at art, an item, the way we live, where we live and how we live. Minimalism is considered cool and is incorporated in all aspects of design today, fashion, interiors, exteriors, theatre and even music.

Minimalism by definition is: anything stripped down to it’s essential.

For art minimalism is: less is more. By highly reducing the visual language for example using colour in a monochromatic way. Plains or surfaces are one tone or colour with a strong absence of expression, the complete opposite of what came before. Artists are working with great thought as to where and what item will go in which place. Creating calculated structure, sometimes straight lines, circle, grids, squares or repeating geographic patterns like zig zags. Artists using colour theory are making a subtle balance of control with colour. Using self control to keep the absence of surface or the object that is being created, always looking for spacial unity. This applies to paint, sculpture and even furniture. Geometric form, simple design, elements without detail, simple materials and repetition all create a feeling of order and quality.

Some well known minimalists are: Joseph Albers, Mark Rothko, Agnus Martin and Imi Knoebel.

Artist from many countries all working to create something new and exciting.

Minimalism is described as an ongoing trend in design and architecture, striving to focus on the connection between two perfect plains, using clear clean lighting, where void spaces are as important as the filled space itself with three dimensional objects. During the 1980’s minimalism became popular in our large metropolitan cities like London. Architects, fashion designers, interior designers were all looking and working together to achieve a memorable aesthetic. Popular at the time were large spaces with white interiors, cool lighting, and minimal furnishings.

The essential goal for minimalist design and architecture are light, form, material, and space creating an environment for the human condition. Modern architects are considering the spiritual dimension by observing the details, people, space, nature and materials.

Examples of architecture with many of these qualities above are: Museum un of Islamic Art, Doha Qatar. Museu de Arte Contemoranea de Niteroi, Niteroi, Brazil. St Moritz Church, St Moritz, Switzerland. And our very own AGA, Art Gallery of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta.

There are fabulous images of all of these building and more on the internet.

Art Gallery of Alberta

The Japanese tradition of Zen Buddhism is considered minimalism. Japanese design has strongly influenced the minimalist movement in architecture. Minimalism was part of the Japanese culture long before it became a movement in the western world. Minimalism is well rooted in Zen philosophy. The influence in gardens and open spaces is brought to us though Japan’s Zen practice. Treating nature with the respect, being true to the inner qualities of materials and objects. There is the practice of “Ma”, this is to empty or open space. To obtain the most aesthetic quality the spacial arrangement, is reduced with an emptiness of objects, giving the space an essential quality. The zen garden is an obvious example.

There is also an influence of minimalism in literature, by Irish write Samual Beckett and James M Cain, a crime fiction writer. Japanese Haiku is sometimes considered as minimalist. In music we have “minimal music” derived in the 1970’s by Michael Nyman for the work by dutch composer Hemming Christiansen, who wrote a ten minute piano composition. There is film as well. Short films made using techniques that are simple and straight forward in storytelling and camera work. Even in software and UI design. Take a look at any Apple product.

Minimalism is starting to have a larger impact on our ever growing consumer culture.

We have been conditioned repeatedly to spend, to have, to consume, and to buy material objects everyday. Just look at our social media advertising, Google and Amazon.

There are many people starting to live a more minimalist life, with the attitude that “Less is More”. Reducing their material items and consumerism, thus relieving them of financial and emotional stress. Choosing a simpler life style also contributes to a smaller global foot print.

Minimalism represents having the few items in life so we can express the joys and pleasures of life, art and comfort. Minimalism is the action that leads to a simple happy comfortable life with less clutter, less stress. There are more and more articles and information on how to achieve this minimalist life. Take the documentary “The Minimalist” on Netflix.

We have all heard of Marie Kondo, and her “ Spark Joy” as seen on television, podcasts and magazine articles, where she promotes a de-cluttered life. For me this is something I have been working on for the last six months or so. Starting with my closet that had 60 dresses, which is impossible for me to wear. I’m not doing as well at this as I probably should.

I do have a great appreciation for Minimalism in art, architecture and day to day life. Having a clutter free, simpler life is more gratifying, peaceful and happy.

Keep Well, Diana

Souces: Minimalist Painting: A Complete Overview (Definition, Characteristics & Top 16 Artists)


Art History -Minimalism: by Marilyn Stoestad and Michael W Cothren

Published by: Laurence King Publishing Ltd. Copy-write 2014

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