Minimalism sometimes relies on deconstructing and reinterpreting of classic designs to form contemporary iterations. Fascinated and inspired by negative spaces, these custom chess-sets by American industrial designer Stefan Gougherty challenges the way we look at the traditional game of chess. Using the method of carving, voids were extracted out of transparent acrylic cubes and then painted to create the modern silhouettes of the standards. The hollow centers also allow these pieces to be strung together for storage. While the new images might seem offensive to a chess player due to the abstraction of forms, they do indicate the forward movement of design and make us rethink about the normality of everyday life. I completely love this idea of taking things out of contexts to reform the thoughts of their users. What is chess without some thoughts, right?
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Jay Atherton Architect’s Meadowbrook Residence was initially inspired by fluctuating seasons of light. Situated in Phoenix, Arizona abounded by an undemanding audience, the architectural formwork is an overt abstraction; yet consciously unspoiled and quiet. Despite the employment of natural materials and local stone, the building itself sits framed by its surroundings, as well as resting respectfully amongst it. The Meadowbrook Residence, completed in 2008, stands much akin to a light box in a landscaped setting. It is organized around three main sculptural rooms, and each receives light differently through the day and year. At night, it is a seamless lantern where the contrasting finishes and textures stand to highlight and emphasize one another. The junctions between the series of uninterrupted planes throughout are finished beautifully and celebrate minimalist principles. Jay Atherton Architects are to be commended for this work and for their dedication to the firmness of discipline. Photography courtesy of Bill Timmerman.
G house, a stunning minimalist private residence nestled in Afeka, northwest of Tel Aviv, is the result of the collaboration of Axelrod Architects and Pitsou Kedem Architects whose work may already be familiar among our readers. Their masterful attention to detail reveals itself in the frameless, flushed architecture. The intersecting beams, columns and planes of this project deliver the sunlight in an almost abstract way, penetrating the volumes and reflecting across the glass and walls on the inside. The roof floats over and cantilevers over the structure, providing much needed shade for this home. My favorite part of this project is the narrow, vertical stairwell, the ‘slice’, that faces the street not only serves as egress, but emphasizes the dramatic volume of the interior with the massive height and extensive use of glazing . The back of the house now has a clever way of letting light in. As the architects describe it: The ‘slice’, containing stairs to all floors, is punctuated by a linear skylight and a ribbon window that dramatically illuminates the stairwell. The result is a spectacularly unifying element in what would have simply been the backside of the building. Photography by Amit Geron.
The formal proportions and elements of a classically designed church is given a modern, abstract intervention by minimalist architect John Pawson. Moritzkirche, otherwise known as St Mortiz Church has survived multiple traumas of fires, wars and even changes of religion in its nearly 1000 year history in Augsburg, Germany. The abstraction of the Baroque forms is intriguing because the shapes and proportions from the cupola domes to the windows, from the nave to the apse are familiar yet appear the experience is completely different without the decorative religious elements and color. As described by the project architect, Jan Hobel: The work has involved the meticulous paring away of selected elements of the church’s complex fabric and the relocation of certain artefacts to achieve a clearer visual field. The light that enters and reflects within the reinterpretation of this church evokes a pristine, uninterrupted atmosphere that it is inevitable to find the peace that one seeks in a church. Images by Gilbert McCarragher.
Without any doubt, I had never seen a pharmacy quite like this before. Farmacia Lordelo was designed by the Portuguese architect José Carlos Cruz and is located in Vila Real, in the north of Portugal. In the absence of external references, it was chosen to create a building with an abstract and neutral character, reinforced by the absence of openings. With an oval shape footprint, the two floors are fully aluminium coated corrugated and perforated. The only direct opening to the outside is the main entrance that gives access to the sales area. By changing the interior light and the symbol of pharmacy, the building gains a dynamic feel, allowing the image variation from day to night. The store not only sells medicines, but also has its own laboratory for compounding pharmacy. What more can I say? I think we need more exercises of design like this in all our common places.
Brazilian photographer and architecture student Vinícius Vitoriano Barbosa, based in São Paulo, has recently created a minimalist photographic paper series titled, Less is More. The whole concept of the project can be summarised in this phrase by legendary abstract expressionist painter Hans Hofmann: The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak. Vitoriano explains that the goal was to find an object as simple as possible that was capable of creating diversity, textures, shadow and light: the essence of photography. The chosen object to achieve this, was paper. Through this simple and commonplace industrialised material, were framed compositions of organic shapes that recall nature. What I particularly like about this project is that it gives the viewer a chance to be in touch with the essence of photography, rather than distract them with the trivial. Vitoriano has produced something really quite beautiful with this series. Less is indeed more.
Italian abstract artist Agostino Bonalumi is renowned for his estroflessioni works or painting objects from 1960 to present. They are essentially made from structures and frames, which, when placed at the backs of canvases, causes them to stretch and deform, creating plays on light and shadow. The result allows the viewer to actively participate in each three dimensional piece. It is a collection of Bonalumni’s recent painting objects that I would like to share with you today. From 2010 to 2012, he has created these elegant and deceptively simple acrylic on canvas works. Gallery Vedovi, where Bonalumi’s work was recently exhibited, writes: Bonalumi uses special substructures in wood or metal to break the evenness of the canvas that lent it a plastic relief, thus allowing to capture light and to throw shadows on its own. The strength of these geometrical shapes is enhanced by the monochrome in a homogeneous, nuance free and flat colour. I would love to check out one of his exhibitions in the future. If any of you have had the pleasure, please share your thoughts.
Instead of the usual lush interior finishes and decor typically found in modern hospitality projects, the designers Petra Liquida have made the experience of light, volume and architectural details the visual luxuries of Casa do Conto. Translated as the ‘House of Tales’, this unique hotel in Porto, Portugal was designed with R2 Design around the concept of integrating various parts of literature from 6 different authors of the history and architecture of the city, into the suites. While the graphics of the relief in the concrete ceilings do evoke a cultural and contemplative experience when one looks up before falling asleep, it is the architecture of the rest of the hotel that I find alluring. From the reference of wood to match the concrete walls, to the details of the central stairs, to the manipulation of light within the volumes of each space continuing into the next – the result is one of visual luxury in a minimalist aesthetic that still pays reverence to the historical context of the city. The new project evokes, through an abstract approach, the old house adornment and its wall textures by using traditional surfaces – crossed wood patterns, corrugated steel plates and curved plywood panels –...
I first saw the work of Magda Cebokli (a Polish-born abstract artist living and working in Melbourne, drawing on her experience in psychology) at an exhibition called Shelf Life at Delmar Gallery, just around the corner from my house. I was pleasantly surprised to see her paintings, and happy to report that Cebokli has been responsible for many other beautiful series of work as showcased on her website. Of these I’ve been particularly attracted to Ring Cycle from 2011. According to her website: Circles of shifting light are the focus of this set of paintings which explore luminosity and the structure of space. Continuing on the theme of light and edge, Cebokli now explores it in the tight closed form of series of concentric rings. In some of the paintings, light on dark conjures up images of a space where light is swallowed inward or pulses out toward the viewer, creating space within space. In others, hard, clearly defined edges become reduced to blur by slight shifts from dark to light. Stunning.
The contemporary cycling culture is really easy to embrace these days with beautiful graphic and packaging designs like James Greig, who is behind the clean and elegant brand and site, Cyclelove. It is a refreshing site that is actually less about bicycles and more about people and their bicycle lifestyles. And after I have spent too much time going through the photostream of all bike related images, the features on all bicycle paraphernalia, I found the perfect gift for fellow minimalist design-loving, bicycle-riding enthusiasts in this simple ‘Just Ride’ limited edition print of abstracted bicycle frames by Greig on heavyweight matt black paper with a white gloss ink, hand-numbered, and packaged in a custom CycleLove poster tube.
Ad Reinhardt (b. 1913-1967) is often associated with the Abstract Expressionist movement of New York, but like Barnett Newman, his work often defies this categorisation, and is now considered a big influence on minimal art and monochrome painting. He is perhaps best known for his so-called ‘black paintings’. At first, these works seem to be black monochromatic paintings. However, if one stays with the work long enough, their eyes will adjust to and reveal the variance in colour and formal elements (many of these take on the form of a crucifix or a grid). Earlier versions required just a few minutes of the viewer for their eyes to adjust, but my understanding is that as he advanced in his career he produced paintings that would require twenty or thirty minutes of viewing. There is something incredibly Zen about this series of work. They are an opportunity to be present with something we think we know, and over an extended period of time (a meditation?) come to learn how different things really are beneath the surface. In the process, we become intimate with the work and revel in its secrets.
Italian street artist Moneyless creates two and three dimensional abstract installations made of cotton threads combined with geometrical paintings often featured in forests and open fields of green across Europe. His Ropes installations, many of which appear to be floating in the air, are not only impressive, but they have a structural simplicity and neatness, which I really do enjoy. Moneyless explains: My shapes are reduced to the minimum, at the same time they carry some kind of an intense tension, an invisible movement; most of my patterns hide multiple visions and different perspectives. I think my art now speaks through geometry. It’s an art I haven’t often come across and so I hope you enjoy these as much as I do.