Friday, 4 June 2010


Just finished reading Minimalism (Movements in Modern Art), by David Batchelor.
Decided to find out more about minimalism after reading this page on Michael Freeman’s website, and because I’ve been interested in the stripped down, geometric nature of a lot of modern (and not so modern) buildings for some time – click this link and image for a recent portfolio of my architecture shots.
In truth the book was not what I expected – a history of, or introduction, to Minimalism. But after reading it I think that’s because I misunderstood Minimalism. The book concentrated on the work of 5 American artists who basically invented Minimalism – much as they appear to have hated being labelled as such. As such it was a fascinating read. The concepts underlying their various works were well explained and compared, their works were placed successfully (for me at least) into the context of other art of the period and their impact on art, and art criticism, was also well covered.
So, what is minimalism? That seems difficult to pin down. As far as I understand it its not putting less in, photos of essentially nothing, close-ups in black and white or any of a range of other things that seem to get labelled as minimalist, although they could surely qualify in the right circumstances. My impression is that it is about being an object – an nothing more. There is no imagery – the works are often unadorned, plain, uniformly coloured They are also – on the basis of the works covered in this book, almost all 3-D – which is a bit of a challenge for a photograph.
So where does that leave this kind of photo, from my personal blog,  that I would once have regarded as Minimalist? I think the answer is that it’s something else, because it’s clearly representational, I like to think I composed it to provide the bare essentials for recognition (though with hindsight I could have cropped the left), and it contains a range of colours and visual textures.
So if it isn’t minimalism, what is it, and does it really matter?
In truth I think the answer to the last question is no – you can call it what you like, but what matters is ‘Does it work?’
As to ‘What is it?’. All I can say is that – inspired by the example in Michael Freemans blog – I made a sincere attempt to illustrate a table lamp using the minimum of information.  In that respect it bears some resemblance to some zen art practises which seek to capture the essence of a thing in as few strokes of the brush as possible. Taking that as my starting point I can already see how it can be improved and, at the end of the day, that’s what this is all about.

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