Art has always been regarded as a sacrosanct medium of personal expression. Unquestionable. Therapeutic even. It is a blend of colours and thoughts, of brushstrokes and imagination. Following the evolution of artistic manifestation, it is evident that archaic creators delivered in bulk. A picture spoke a thousand words. 

Artists were lauded for attaining life-like paintings. Sculptures followed the most delicate contours of the human body. Surrealists took the spotlight with their ingenuity. And suddenly, museums hoisted compositions of bland shapes. Abstraction took on a new meaning, and ‘minimalism’ became the new fad. 

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The Last Supper_©https://www.sightseeingtoursitaly.com/tips-articles/how-to-see-the-last-supper-by-leonardo-da-vinci/
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Minimalism_©Piet Mondrian

What Is Minimalism?

In today’s world, minimalism takes on many forms. From defining one’s lifestyle to forming the basis of a genre of music, minimalism has become a household term. But when it first came into the world in the 1960s, it was but a mere form of art. 

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Minimalistic Home_©https://www.inc.com/yazin-akkawi/minimalism-is-not-never-will-be-dead.html

The minimalism movement across fine arts and architecture highlighted the beauty of simplicity. Terms like “less is more” and “art of letting go” shook a society that was obsessed with intricacy and pomp. Palettes that once thrived on myriads of colours transformed into controlled monochromes. Clean, simple lines with precise, mathematically derived forms took over compositions. Negative space was used to create powerful, dynamic work and minimalism slowly became a language of sophistication and elegance. 

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Knot Pink_©Brent Hallard

Minimalism In The World, Today

To study the impact it has on society, let’s have a look at some contemporary references and pop culture influencers who have inculcated minimalism into their lives. Trailblazers of the Minimalism Art Movement, Frank Stella, Donald Judd, Robert Morris, Agnes Martin and Carl Andre among others, defined the genre with their work.

Popular duo- Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus commonly referred to as “The Minimalists” promote a minimalist lifestyle through their documentaries, podcasts, books and videos. Netflix filmmaker Matt D’Avella explores minimalism through his videos.

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The Minimalists_©https://www.theminimalists.com/

Renowned declutterer, author and TV show host Marie Kondo (KonMari) talks about “letting go” and “only associating with things that spark joy” through her various mediums of influence.

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Marie Kondo_©Netflix

Minimalist authors like Joshua Becker, Colin Wright and Courtney Carver use books to communicate their ideas about minimalism and the effects it has on daily life. More and more people today are finding meaning in the simplicity offered by minimalism, regarding it as the “true essence of life”, pure and true.

Minimalism In Architecture

Mies van der Rohe’s architectural aphorismless is moreaptly summarizes the stronghold of minimalism in the field.  Structures are stripped off of ornamentation. Simple design elements and geometric forms make up the entirety of the style. Design principles like repetition and unity are prioritized and textures and colours are restricted in use. The essence of minimalistic art is found in the interplay of positive and negative spaces of the built form.

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Barcelona Pavilion_©https://www.bbc.com/culture/article/20130924-less-is-more-a-design-classic

Famous examples of this style include Donald Judd’s House in New York, the Okinawa House in Japan, I.M Pei’s Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, Luis Barragan’s Casa Barragan in Mexico, Zaha Hadid’s Heydar Aliyev Center in Baku and the Barcelona Pavilion by Mies van der Rohe.

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Okinawa House_©John Pawson

Understanding The Fundamentals Behind Minimalism

The popularity of minimalism among the masses raises an important question: What makes it so appealing?

The fundamental theory behind minimalism is discovering the freedom offered by the absolute bare essentials. Eliminating clutter and disregarding items that do not pose any appreciable value results in a thought process that focuses only on things that matter. The idea is to transform the existing chaos into a still, utopic universe that propagates peace of mind and stoicism.

Clean, straight lines dictate vision to an unhindered focal point. Monochromes emphasize design features without puzzling the mind and geometry brings serenity to the composition. Minimalism defines the art of a clear future, composed and efficient. 

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White Cubes_©Sol LeWitt

Is Art A Stationary Concept? 

Though art schools and societal perception have always drawn a bold boundary defining art, new ideologies have always managed to find daylight. Perennial waves of change have constantly reiterated the fact that art remains subjective. Celebrated artists of today were shunned in their own time. And artwork that was once brushed off as rubbish is now studied in schools and observed in museums. This raises another significant question: Is art a stationary concept? 

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Van Gogh’s- Starry Night Was Unappreciated In Its Time_©https://www.vangoghgallery.com/painting/starry-night.html

Criticism And The Role Of Art In Society

Art is considered to be a gift that can be accessed by all but only mastered by a few. Restricting the wandering of the mind to simple lines and shapes purges the ability to emotionally understand and connect to the visual. Constructing a composition limited in weight, colour, texture, space and imagination by trial and error allows one to ponder if the feat can be achieved by a layman. Once every facet of society is capable of achieving a masterpiece, does the value of art depreciate? If skill no longer commands the hierarchy of fine art generation, is it still considered valuable?

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The Marriage of Reason and Squalor 2_©Frank Stella

Art not only fulfils the need for aesthetics. For eras, artwork has been used to symbolize the prevailing society. Paintings depict social conditions and the moulding of human thought processes of the period. They are an indirect means of documentation. Another aspect that remains ambiguous when it comes to minimalistic art forms. 

The Minimalist art movement is not embraced without criticism. Notable artists and thinkers across the world have questioned the style for its lack of emotion, theatricality and discontinuity. Comparisons to other forms of expression have constantly tried to undermine the philosophy behind minimalism.  

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Red Blue Yellow 2_©Ellsworth Kelly

And while supporters and critics constantly try to outbattle each other, the question remains: Is minimalism destroying art? This question is left for you, the reader, to ponder.

Author

A third year undergrad, Srilalitha believes that the literary universe is a gateway to exploring art and architecture. She has a strong affinity towards music, athletics and photography and enjoys unraveling the similarities between her worlds over a cup of tea.

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