Minimalism and ‘Beauty’

My primary influence, throughout Subject, has been the works of minimalist artists during the 1960’s. Minimalism is an extreme form of abstraction. However, unlike traditional abstract art which usually represents an aspect of the real world (a physical thing) or an experience (emotion or feeling), Minimalism does not attempt to represent an outside reality. Often focus is placed on the work itself, and how the viewer responds to what is directly in front of them: the medium and form of the work.

Minimalist Painter Frank Stella once said:

My painting is based on the fact that only what can be seen there is there. It really is an object.’ […] When the surface of the painting is looked at. It is just that: a surface. Not a metaphor of a body or a space within the picture, but an object within a world of other objects. ‘What you see is what you see.’  (p.16)

Batchelor, D. (1997) Minimalism (movements in modern art). Millbank, London: Tate Gallery Pub.

It was the aesthetic qualities of Minimalism which interested me. Minimalism is often defined by its use of industrial materials, such as Donald Judd’s ‘stack’ works, but this is not to what I am referring. Although these works are pleasing to the eye, I am more greatly drawn to works which are formed from more pliable materials, such as textiles and paint, due to their textural qualities and interaction with external forces (gravity), resulting in subtle marks and patterns which are unique to the piece.

‘Beauty’ or ‘visual appeal’ has played a large part in why I began researching Minimalism. Author James Kirwan wrote in his book ‘Beauty’,

“For what I am concerned with is not the objective qualities of the beautiful, but rather the dynamics of the event of beauty, the perception of beauty, that is, the mental state which issues in the feeling that a thing is beautiful.” (p.4) 

When I regard Minimalist works beautiful, I am not implying that others should also think it beautiful. I merely hope that beauty as a sensation is understood, that the beauty I have seen can be recognised and appreciated.


Author: Crisiant Williams

I am a Fine Art student, studying at Cardiff School of Art and Design.

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