In this study,
I aim to find out that less can be more, I will explore minimalism and analyse research
into where minimalism came from by exploring the De Stijl movement and artists
such as Piet Mondrian who created beautiful abstract pieces, which moved away
from previous more detailed artworks. Then I will be analysing at the movement
of Minimalism itself in the 1950’s America as well as Brutalism (minimalist
architecture) in the 1950/60’s seeing the influence that the De Stijl had on
these movements, mainly minimalism. Afterwards, I will examine the impact of
minimalism on our lives not just in graphic design or art. This will be
informed by watching the documentary, “The Minimalists” which is
about people who gave up their 6 figure wages to express that having less can
take away stress which is leading to an overall happier life. Finally, I will
look at a recent designer who has taken the idea of minimalism into their own hands
to create simplistic poster-like designs, this will be the work of Outmane
Amahou who took famous artworks throughout art history and stripped them of
small details to create recognisable but minimalistic silhouettes.
movement was an “extreme form” (Tate, 2018)?of
abstract art developed in the USA in the 1950s. Typically the artworks were
composed of simple geometric shapes based on squares and rectangles. The
Minimalism art movement can be seen as an extension of the idea of abstract art
and it is also very similar to Cubism. Influenced by geometric shapes the De
Stijl art movement from the Neverlands 1917, allowed minimalism to be developed
widely into today’s designs. This movement was based on squares and rectangles
as well as lines and pops of bright, primary colors.
usually think of art as representing an aspect of the real world (a landscape,
a person, or even a tin of soup!); or reflecting an experience such as an
emotion or feeling. With Minimalism, no attempt is made to represent an outside
reality; the artist wants the viewer to respond only to what is in front of
them. The medium, (or material) from which it is made and the form of the work
is the reality. Minimalist painter Frank Stella famously said about his
paintings ‘What you see is what you see'” (Tate, 2018)?
tells me that Minimalism is exactly what it says it is; it is a minimal needed
to create an impression.
about in the late 1950s. This is where artists, alike Frank Stella, began to
move away from the previous movement of ‘gestural art’ (Tate, 2018).
The movement challenged the existing structures but kept
grids and some structure. Earlier abstract movements were an important
influence on the ideas and techniques of Minimalism who were aiming to be extremely
minimal and move away from tradition which was often detailed and
combines together to allow me to explore the influences of Minimalism and the
influences of what Minimalism can bring to our lives and today’s designs.
The Minimalists – Joshua Fields Milburn &
Ryan Nicodemus 2016 Alison and Peter Smithson, Robin Hood Gardens 13, Poplar,
London, 1969-1972 Piet Mondrian – Composition with Yellow, Blue and Red 1937–42
Outmane Amahou, Pop Art, 2012 Frank Stella, Hyena Stomp ,1962
De Stijl – Piet
Who influenced today’s designers to use Minimalism,
where did Minimalism come from?
De Stijl was an artistic movement in the Netherlands
that started in 1917 and lasted till roughly the early 1930s. “De
Stijl” is Dutch for “The Style”. The movement included painters,
sculptors, architects, and designers who developed concepts which focused on
purity and the obscurity of figuration in design and art. Alike Cubism,
geometric shapes, and lines are used as key features of Minimalism. (Martinique, P and P, 2016). De Stijl was a
movement which brought in simplicity and abstraction by deducing designs to its
essential form and colour. The designs were to consist of only: Horizontal and
vertical lines, rectangular forms, primary values white, black, and grey and primary
colors blue, red, and yellow. Furthermore, different parts of the designs do not
overlap, everything has its own independence apart from the interception of the
lines as they stretch across the canvas (Mokhov, 2011) which is shown in most of his paintings
alike Composition with Yellow, Blue and Red 1937–42.
Piet Mondrian (1872-1944) was a Dutch artist.
He was first to explore the idea of abstract art. In 1908 Mondrian began to
work in a brighter colours and significantly contributed in developing the pointillist
style which is a detailed and precise style of art with small dots and patterns
to create an image. He was hugely influenced by Cubism with the abstract styles
he developed. This style then moved into a more simplistic abstract style which
Mondrian called Neo-Plasticism. In this style, only the three primary colors
can be used amongst a black grid containing vertical and horizontal lines on a
white ground. This style is hugely associated with the de Stijl movement
1917-25 (Tate, 2017).
Composition with Yellow, Blue and Red, 1937–42
Composition with Yellow, Blue and Red 1937–42, is a clear
example of a piece of Piet Mondrian’s work of the De Stijl movement, sticking
to the rules which are laid out for this specific movement. The way in which
Mondrian has used only four instances of colour creates some negative spacing
which draws the viewer to explore the outer parts of the painting, creating an
intriguing composition. The minimalistic style makes me feel relaxed, there no
tiny details in which an audience have to focus in on, its blocks of colour
which could have any meaning an audience would like it to. I perceive the piece
as a focus on the red block colour which is surrounded totally by black lines.
I feel the piece is quite romantic in a sense that the black lines protect and
surround an intimate colour making the red square the center of focus. You
could also develop this idea further, it could be representing the elements which
you need in life; happiness symbolised by yellow, relationships expressed by
red and getting by represented by blue. Overall, the artwork is interesting and
allows everyone to have their own free perceptions of life.
Overall this movement was the beginning of the
Minimalism – Frank Stella
Frank Stella was
an American abstract painter. Whilst attending Phillips Academy in Andover, he
started painting abstract pictures. After graduation, Stella moved to New York
in 1958 (Tate,
Conspiracy, Lithograph, 1971 (Caviar20, 2018)
Frank Stella, “Conspiracy” Lithograph, 1971 – (Caviar20, 2018)
This piece is slightly different to most
of Frank Stella’s designs as it only uses black and white tones rather than
bright and retro colours. This piece, looks three dimensional and gives an
illusional effect, which is why I was drawn to it in the first place, which is
created by smaller grey lines within the white ones. The use of the squares equidistance
enlarging outwards allows for this effect within the piece. As a result of
this, diagonal lines are created and the whole piece looks three dimensional
creating movement in the lines if you look straight into it. This work was part
of the “Conspiracy Portfolio” which was protesting against the Vietnam war.
Knowing this you could look at the piece in a different way and start to see
that the illusion could be the confusion to why the war war occurring at the
time. From my own knowledge, I am aware that some of the soldiers were men who
did not want to go when drafted for the war. In terms of minimalism, the design
has little features which could combine together to have a larger significant
Frank Stella, Harran II, 1967
This was one of Stella’s “Famed Protractor
Paintings” from 1967.
Frank Stella, Referendum ’70,
screenprint, 1970 (Caviar20, 2018)
Stella, Referendum ’70, screenprint, 1970 – (Caviar20, 2018)
This screenprint created by Frank Stella
has a retro look to it with minimalist detailing. This piece is particularly
interesting as it has curves as well as geometric shapes which combine together
to create a confusing pattern. The reason I call it retro is because of the
vintage and faded colour combination that Stella has used. It reminds me of a
tile you might find in the 1960’s or 70’s. Therefore, as this piece was created
in 1970, Stella is contemporary with his colours and the style of patterns he
has explored. The minimalism comes from the fact that you cannot tell what the
piece is therefore anyone can have their own interpretation of it. Minimalistic
pieces tend to have a hidden meaning. Stella created the screenprint in order
to raise funds for anti-war demonstrations. This was one of the modifications
of Stella’s “Famed Protractor Paintings” from 1967-1970 (SAXOPRINT Blog UK, 2013). Using the method of screenprint allowed Stella to develop sharp
edges for his colours which resulted in a clean finish in the design. Finally,
the clean finish allows us as viewers to realise the connection between Cubism,
abstract art and Minimalism.
With hidden meanings Minimalism can make “less more” as it
allows viewers to gain their own interpretation of a piece before being
influence by the artist’s or designer’s intentions.
Alison and Peter Smithson
Brutalism is an
architectural style and a movement of design which ranged through the 1950s and
1960s. The style was influenced by Minimalism and as a result created new forms
of construction and architecture which were built of simple block forms of raw
was particularly associated with the architects Peter and Alison Smithson. The
architect couple Alison and Peter Smithson (Goodwin, 2017) formed a
partnership which led through to British Brutalism twentieth century. The pair
“stripped down Modernism”, and challenge modernist approaches and
designs. Instead of using just modernistic approaches, the couple helped evolve
Modernism into what became Brutalism, the couple advocated the “streets in
the sky” approach to housing. Meaning accommodating the poorer and taking
them off the streets. (Goodwin, 2017)
Alison and Peter
Smithson, Robin Hood Gardens 13, Poplar, London, 1969-1972 Peter and Alison Smithson, Smithdon High School, Norfolk, England, 1954
Both of these
buildings have a certain look to them, they are not overcrowded in any way they
use just pure concrete and glass. This pure simplicity is something which was
explored by many architects in the Brutalist movement where they took a step
back from modernism and made architecture simplistic, only including the
essential elements which buildings need. These types of buildings today are
usually used as flats or in the case of the Smithdon High School, they are used
as public sector buildings.
around I do not see these buildings as the prettiest buildings, in fact, they are
quite ugly after a few years of wear and tear, but we see the practicality of
the amount of people these large, tall structures can accommodate; therefore,
for an ever-growing population, these buildings work in providing for peoples’
needs to have a home.
architecture emerged during the 60’s carried on into the 70’s. The main idea
which surrounded Brutalism was partially based on the idea of equality within
society as well as a place of hope for people who were not so well off.
Therefore, Brutalism played an important role in society especially within the
communist countries (Widewalls, 2017).
of unity and shared space was somehow best transformed into shape through the
means of brutalist suburban blocks, with lots of open space and moderately tall
buildings and houses that have a capacity to accommodate many people. It was
also often associated with futurism, a bright outlook on the future, which is
how it was presented at first – close to how people used to imagine
utopia.” (Widewalls, 2017) This statement tells me that Brutalism was a movement which changed
society as a whole giving everyone an equal chance as well as bringing
communities together within shared space.
I feel that Minimalism
had a massive influence on Brutalism and this formed more than simplistic, but
quite ugly, buildings. It created a society where we can be happier for knowing
that there is cheap accommodation out there, if life gets in the way, for
example if you lose your job.
idea of Brutalism is practicality. Brutalism was hugely influenced by the
minimalism movement in using simplicity in architecture and by taking away
un-necessary detail. Less in terms of complexity, more in terms of
practicality, the brutalist movement was one that demonstrates that less can be
The Minimalists – Joshua Fields Milburn and Ryan
Nicodemus – (Minimalism – A
Documentary about Important Things, 2016)
Minimalism – A Documentary about Important
This is a documentary which looks into what
makes people happy in terms of possessions. After watching it once, I was
intrigued enough to feel that it was relevant for me to determining if
“less is more”. The documentary opened my eyes to new ideas which then
formed my interest in exploring the subject of minimalism.
Inspiration came from the main two men,
Ryan Nicodemus and Joshua Fields Milburn, who gave up their own 6 figure
salaries to spread the word of how having a minimalistic life can make you happier.
Ryan stated, “I had everything I ever wanted… everyone around me said I
was successful, but in fact, I was miserable”. Many people believe you can
“buy your way to happiness” but the situation is that having
“stuff” was not fulfilling the “void” of unhappiness within
our lives. The more “stuff” that we have, the more dissatisfied we
become; as humans, we are “wired to become dissatisfied” (Minimalism – A Documentary about Important Things, 2016).
Joshua let go of a lot of his processions
that did not add value to his life, consequently, his life became more
stress-free, making Joshua happier.
The documentary introduced the idea of
minimalistic miniature homes where every space is valuable and used.
Environmentally, the idea is genius as supposedly we do not use up to 40% of
our homes. This is the idea to do more with less.
Jimmy Carter, the former US president, made
a short statement during the documentary about human identity stating that
“not one does what one owns”. This tells me that you don’t use
everything that you own, suggesting Minimalism is the way forward. The
president described humans as being “longing for meaning” in terms of
the need for material goods, which” cannot fill emptiness”.
The American Dream is all about: equality,
fairness and everyone having a chance. Greed has taken over the world and
therefore does not allow a chance for everyone to be happy, Minimalism could
help this problem.
The closing statement was “Love people
and use things because the opposite never works”. This depicts the impact
of minimalism for if you take on a minimalistic life then you should be happy,
genuine, add value to your life, be stress-free as you are being intentionally
simple, have a need rather than a want and stop this madness in which we have dug
ourselves into as a society. This madness being a “want” for
The Minimalists, Joshua Fields Milburn and Ryan
Todays Minimalism – Outmane Amahou
Outmane Amahou is a French-based Graphic Designer (Amahou, 2018)
who took the artworks of the various art movements and took away all the detail
to create minimal posters.
Outmane Amahou has taken Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup
Can, 1962 and made it simplistic and minimalistic, taking only the one element
which tells the story fully and putting it on a plain background. He uses a
plain background in his work which are most commonly primary colours. His 2012
Minimalist Art Movement Posters are his responses to different artistic
movements which he changes just using single shapes and blocks of colours which
create a representative of each movement individually. He says “whenever
he thinks of any art movement, there is always one specific visual for each
one”. An example of this is when he thought about Pop Art, the first thing
that he thought of was Warhol’s soup cans. I love the way that Amahou takes only
a silhouette and still makes the poster recognizable and linked to the original
piece by colour choices. The piece has no added stress within the details which
critics were quick to judge with Warhol’s original pieces. Tiny details can add
stress to one’s eye but with minimal detail, the eye can appreciate the work
instantly without the need to think too much.
I would say that Amahou has been heavily influenced by
the Minimalist movement but more so by the De Stijl movement. This is in terms
of the choices of colours within his backgrounds being primary colours and the
fact that he is taking away stress and time by not creating something detailed
and making this recognisable giving us as viewers a challenge to determine what
it is. Overall, I like the work that he does and feel that it “does what
it says on the tin”!
Andy Warhol – Campbell’s Soup Cans – 1962 Outmane
Amahou – Pop Art – 2012
Overall, I conclude that Minimalism can prove that
less can be more.
I have explored the origin of Minimalism by
examining the abstract work of Piet Mondrian. Mondrian’s work openly allowed the viewer
decide an interpretation of what they felt it meant. This was because there was
no reason to why Mondrian laid out his artworks like he did. Therefore, I felt an
audience were getting more out of the artwork than they initially thought. When
exploring the piece further the artwork begins to create its own meaning, this
interpretation can mean more to a viewer than a painting of an apple or a
portrait. I then explored one of the main artists of the Minimalism movement,
Frank Stella who I found had hidden meanings within his artwork but initially,
which yet again proves that minimalism can make more out of less as it allows
viewers to develop their own interpretation of a piece before being influenced
by of the artist’s or designer’s intentions. Moving on, I analysed into
Brutalism with a focus on architect couple Alison and Peter Smithson who
created designs for buildings which took away all the unnecessary and kept to the
basic needs of the buildings. They left concrete bare yet the advantages of
their designs were that they were able to put more people into less and
therefore accommodate the lower class with this affordable mass of flats. This
is another way which proved that less was more within the intentions of doing
good for the community. I went on to watch an intriguing documentary where I discovered
how minimalism can affect our lives directly by making some dramatic changes to
the amount of “stuff” we own. This documentary opened my eyes to the fact that
“stuff” causes stress and the more you have, the more stressed you will be, so
having less could lead you to a stress free and happier lifestyle where you are
able to do more. Finally, I looked at the work from a recent designer, Outmane
Amahou, who took various design movements and changed a famous piece from the
movement into a minimalistic poster. I found that the work was still highly
recognisable but less complex to look at and therefore, less is more as it
leads to discovery and interpretation.
In my own designs I have strived to take on a minimalistic
approach to allow the photographs to stand out and be the main body of my
magazine rather than the text itself. I now have the evidence to prove that
less can be more and with a minimalistic approach, appreciation can be shown
allowing by the viewer as it is easier to admire and gain wondering thoughts
about my photographs as well as gain appreciation towards the clear, easy to
understand design of the magazine.
I decided to try minimalism out for myself to test my own
theory that less can be more and also the fact that having less “stuff” (Minimalism – A Documentary about Important Things, 2016) can allow me to
decrease stress as well as dissatisfaction which some of my processions with-hold.
I started by decluttering my room of anything I didn’t use or need from my
surfaces alike my desk, bedside tables and chest of drawers. Next, I sorted
through all my draws removing un-needed items, this included stationary,
clothes and gadgets. Having a massive tidy up not only made my room look
cleaner and bigger but also relaxing to walk in to. I felt it removed the
stress of having to move my processions all the time to get to different parts
of my room as well as the stress in trying to find the processions I needed.
Therefore, this gave me more time to study and relax without any of these other
stresses. I proved my own theory and now own less but all I have is valuable to
me and has a use which is why now I enjoy spending time in my room.
Overall, less allowed for more.