Minimalissimo


Adrian Clement

I have nothing to say and I am saying it.

Speaking of the notion of ‘suchness’ in his book Zen and the Brian, James H. Austin notes: In Japanese, the word ‘sono-mama’ had long implied that something could stand as it is, untouched. In Chinese, the expressions ‘Chi-mo’ or ‘Shi-mo’ were used to mean ‘just so’, or ‘so it is.’ I open with this quote to introduce Carl Andre’s sculpture of 1966, Equivalent VIII, which consists of of 120 fire bricks arranged as a rectangular prism on the floor of the gallery space. I would like to suggest—for I haven’t encountered it myself—a Zen Buddhist reading of Andre’s work, which would frame it as a presentation of things as they are, untouched. In David Batchelor’s book on Minimal Art, André is quoted as saying this about his work: The one thing I learned in my work is that to make the work I wanted to you couldn’t impose properties on materials, you have to reveal the properties of the material. And elsewhere, speaking of his sculpture: Their subject is matter. These quotes encapsulate for me what is offered by Andre’s work: the opportunity to encounter this sculpture as just bricks. Let it be so.


Letterpress – a simple word game for iPhone and iPad by Loren Brichter of Atebits. OK. We probably all know about this one by now, but this game came up in conversation with a friend this morning over coffee in regards to its innovate UI design and I’d like to reiterate here how delightful I’ve found this game since it was released late last year. As John Gruber summarised over at Daring Fireball: [Letterpress is] a cross between a word game like Scrabble or Boggle and a real estate strategy game like Risk or Go. It’s addictive. If you haven’t already given this one a go – I’d highly recommend it. For those of you who have, I encourage you to share your experiences.


I was quite taken by the Jil Sander Fall/Winter 2013 collection presented at Milan in February, earlier this year. From the space in which the collection was presented, which featured a metallic polyhedron at its centre that danced light spectacularly onto the models, through to the idiosyncratic styling (simple makeup, slick-back hair) and the garments themselves, which were bold and yet reserved, odd for the subtle and not-so-subtle flamboyancies (such as the inclusion of actual gold woven into some of the clothes and the calf-leather dress and coats) and pleasant for their selection of colours ranging from moodier tones of plum, burgundy and navy through to almost-sky blues, slightly pale yellow and splashes of apricot. The architecture of the clothes in this collection interested me; they are at once derivative of what has come before at the house of Jil Sander, and yet slightly edgier, more refined and sharper. Whilst this collection didn’t blow me away in the way Raf Simons’ work for the label often used to, it was refreshing to see this collection amongst all the others this season for its diligence in restraint, sophistication and minimalism. For this, Sander has my respect.


This week I have been reminded of the work of Yves Klein (1928-1962) who is perhaps best remembered as a painter of blue monochrome paintings. More specifically, he is known for the particular shade of blue paint employed in his paintings and sculptures, the trademarked International Klein Blue (IKB). But what has drawn my attention to Klein’s work this week is more the conceptual side of his practice (although this is not to imply that his blue monochromes are not conceptual), especially the work in which Klein explored (and exposed) throughout many mediums what he dubbed ‘the void.’ To this effect, Wikipedia recounts works by Klein such as a composition with no actual composition, painting without painting, and an exhibition without any content whatsoever (his Iris Clert Gallery exhibition of April, 1958). I’ve stressed in the past that where minimal art succeeds for me is in its ability to be reductive and to reveal the essence of being and matter. Klein took this to—what was at the time—extremes, and in his idiosyncratic grand and theatrical manner. We’re all better off for having him.


Chris Packer exhibited a series of paintings titled ‘The Planes’ for Factory 49 in February in what’s known as the ‘Office Space’; for the same duration, I exhibited a new project in the ‘Showroom’. The paintings were white canvases with cotton tape arranged geometrically across them; the cotton tape was white on the outside, but coloured on the underside. As a result, the white canvases were illuminated by the reflection of colour from the underside of tape in a very alluring way. In the catalogue available at the gallery, Packer comments: In the present work, the cotton tape acts as ground and curtain, at once carrying and hiding the painting. What struck me most with Packer’s exhibition was the way he utilised a small space with comparatively quite large paintings that were compositionally connected. Speaking of this aspect of his work on his website, Packer writes: Where you might ordinarily create a series which you then cull to make a cohesive offering, this show proceeded from a design based on the shape of the space, then isolated parts of the whole to produce independent ‘easel paintings’. It was a delight to exhibit alongside Packer and I look forward to seeing...


By now, there are plenty of minimalist weather apps for the iPhone, including WTHR, Blue and Solar just to name a few. But here’s another one by Jake Marsh called Conditions. Dead simple, the app shows the current weather and a five day forecast (although this can be hidden so that only the current weather is shown). The app features slightly different designs for day and night; overall the clean design is very pleasant and features Adam Whitcroft’s Climacons. Writing about the app, the developer writes: Many weather apps clutter their interface and overload their users with tons of details that aren’t all that useful. Conditions only shows you the most important information about what it’s like outside right now, wherever you are, anywhere in the world.


Jasper Morrison designed his iconic Air Chair for production by Magis in 2001. I recently bought a few of these for my new apartment and it surprises me how well the design has held up over the years. Coining—in conjunction with Takashi Okutani—the term ‘super normal’ to describe the kind of work he aims to produce as a designer, these chairs certainly do seem to be nothing special on first (and second) glance, but nonetheless exude an atmosphere of quiet, grace and honesty through their simplicity. One of the first significant pieces of furniture design to apparently use injection blow moulding technology, this chair is crafted from polypropylene with added glass fibre and is stackable. The chair has several variations (the Folding Air-Chair and the Air-Chair with arms) and is accompanied by the Air-Table and the Air TV table.


Until this week, I had missed Dana Thomas’ profile for the Wall Street Journal on Jil Sander and her return to her eponymous label (written last November). Thomas’ piece helped me understand that Jil Sander’s latest three collections (Spring 2013 Menswear, Spring 2013 Womenswear and now Fall 2013 Menswear) are attempts at steering the brand back towards its roots. (According to its website, Jil Sander is a “high-end luxury brand epitome of modernity and sophistication”.) It is clear (now with hindsight) that her brand had been derailed since selling it to the Prada Group, and its subsequent acquisitions by private investors. I find it a shame no-one found a way to capitalise off the success of creative director Raf Simons, who at least brought the brand back into the public consciousness (and relevance) while he worked at the brand between 2005-2012, but at least he now has a home (and business model) that recognises his talent. My first impressions of this collection (and the previous two) were of disinterest and boredom, but what quickly followed upon closer inspection and repeated viewing was a growing respect for their silence and craftsmanship. Furthermore, it is something like this collection that I could actually picture...


Speaking of Anish Kapoor, I saw in the Museum of Contemporary Art store these beautifully designed espresso cups for illy. Of the piece, the manufacturer writes: Anish Kapoor has played around with the illy cup and subverted its use: by placing the platinum saucer with the hole in the centre on the top, the flickering reflections become form and touch on themes such as doubt, ambivalence, error, mystery, surprise and the desire to understand. Perhaps a bit pricey at $90, but nonetheless a gorgeous set of objects. Unknown to me until recently, illy have collaborated with many artists for their Art Collection range, including Minimalissimo-featured Daniel Buren, Marina Abromovic and Robert Rauschenberg.


Undoubtedly many of us have been keeping an eye on the time during our New Year celebrations, and so I thought it fitting (being the first post of 2013 here on Minimalissimo) to feature this beautiful impetus for reading the time. Designed by Minimalissimo-favorite Naoto Fukasawa for production by Magis in 2011, Tempo is a plastic wall-clock that has an all-white ground with details punctuated by a single color (orange, brown, black or grey). Despite the absence of a second-hand, the clock makes an audible ticking sound. Its graphic (almost drawn-like) quality, the rounded shapes used on the face and the use of depth give this otherwise minimalist piece a softness and playfulness that I very much enjoy. For Magis, Fukasawa also designed a reductionist cuckoo clock, titled Cu-Clock.


I first saw the work of Anish Kapoor at GOMA for the 2007 Asia Pacific Triennial. It left a very deep impression on me, and I am fortunate to have had another experience of his work just this week at his current exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney. Kudos to the curatorial and installation team for putting together such a successful show; I left with that same feeling of awe I had several years ago. I found his work to be incredibly moving and transcendental, and enjoyed the scope of his body of work. I wanted to write about the exhibition for Minimalissimo, but I could not find suitable images on the MCA’s website from the show, so I’d like to draw your attention to just one work, which is titled Sky Mirror. Installed at the entrance of the MCA, this sculpture is a large circular piece of reflective stainless steel, installed at an angle to mirror the sky and its surroundings. A very simple and effective piece, the work has been installed in many different locations, and Mr Kapoor’s website features documentation and even videos of its previous incarnations.


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.