Minimalissimo


Categorized “Art & Illustration”

English artist David Sawyer, working from his studio based in Louisville, Colorado, recently introduced me to his incredible and minimalist collection of grey grid canvas paintings. While there is a large body of minimalist work involved with grids, straight lines and symmetry, Sawyer’s paintings are freehand, and the linear elements in them are far from straight, though at a distance there is a semblance of linearity. The result is a subtle shimmer of movement as though the surfaces, though inert, create their own presence by vibration – almost sound-like. The painted surfaces are rendered using a Japanese painting process called ‘Nihonga’, the paint being a mixture of mineral pigments and heated animal glue. The canvases are sensual, subtle, and there is movement among the close-valued hues on the canvas surface. The canvases are created intuitively, in a process of orchestrating near-silence and near-stasis. As within the modern tradition of minimalism, allusion to form is not central to the painted surface. The imagery of these works comes out of an awareness of perfection and garners its energy from absence.


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.


In the summer of 2011 the Ratio 3 gallery organized the first solo exhibition in San Francisco of Margaret Kilgallen’s (1967–2001) work in 13 years. Considered by many to be one of the most influential, yet under-recognized, Bay Area artist of her generation. Kilgallen, along with a handful of other artists came to emergence in the late 1990s, as part of an art movement that is now commonly referred to as the Mission School. The artist’s imagery includes her iconic motifs such as leaves, trees, topography, and female figures, all executed in a delicate and adept hand. Her style is beautifully simple and humble, almost folkloric, at times working with basically abstractions of color, lines, and repeating shapes. She was an avid reader and thinker, looking to Appalachian music, signage, typography, letterpress printing, hobo train writing, and religious and decorative arts to inform her work. In addition to her comissioned mural work, she was also a graffiti artist under the tag names “Meta” and “Matokie Slaughter”, the latter used specifically for freight train graffiti. Kilgallen was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 33 and decided to forgo chemotherapy so that she might carry a pregnancy to term. She died in 2001,...


Based in Darwen, UK, illustrator and designer Chris Thornley, also often referred to as Raid71, has drawn these beautiful and minimal illustrations as an exercise of warming up before a day of drawing. The collection, titled Minimal is Good, is based on two basic rules: 1. One line (occasionally there are two or three). 2. One minute to draw. Thornley explains: After a few days I started to focus more and more on simplicity/minimalism; What was the least I could draw and still convey a person/emotion? Often depicting a female form, Thornley’s illustrations, which could also be defined as line art, are simple and brilliant. Lovely work.


Daniel Biesold is a German artist currently living and working in Berlin. If you’re unfamiliar with his painting work, I’d like to introduce you to his beautifully minimalist white series, which has been ongoing since 2005. Galerie koal, of where Biesold’s work has been exhibited, writes: The white series addresses the process of perception beyond the borders of visibility and its organic deposit. Consciousness as the capacity of orientation in relation to space, time and identity entrenches itself in the segments of the images in the form of grey or white substance. Mere relations among shadows generate a difference and thus shape the world as a space of mental concentration. Galerie koal has also featured Biesold’s black series of paintings, which are just as impressive.


Madmoiselle Favre is a french illustrator based in London, having grown up in Paris and moved to the UK to pursue illustration after graduation. Her work spans editorial, music, fashion, and basically a wide variety of many other mediums. My approach to illustration is about paring things down as much as possible. I try and get to the essence of my subject by using as few lines and colours as it needs to convey the core of the idea. Her combination of sinuous curves, clean and fluid lines, and bright, pop color palettes enables the creation of playful and alluring artwork that always leaves something to the imagination. Malika Favre has an upcoming exhibition at the Kemistry gallery in London. Check out the beautifully geometric and minimalistic teaser video here.


I recently came across the outstanding canvas works of New York based artist, Wyatt Kahn, and thought many of you would also appreciate his collection. Kahn’s paintings, which have been exhibited in London, New York, Berlin and Los Angeles, consist of forms, gaps and spaces. The forms are built out of stretcher panels and raw canvas. The panels begin as three-dimensional objects; but as they gather, they flatten out, transforming into the compositional components of a two-dimensional object. Between each panel is a gap that also acts as a line within the composition. Larger gaps become spaces; these spaces reveal and enclose the wall behind. The wall enters into a figure/field relationship with the panels and becomes just another material of the painting; the painting’s linear aspects both create and disturb perspective. Kahn uses raw canvas to focus attention on these shifting relationships. The forms are really interesting and I particularly enjoy the pieces titled Thing and Her.


January 1st Tilman Zitzmann, a Germany based interaction and graphic designer, decided to channel his enthusiasm for minimalist graphics in an on-going personal project. Each and every day he publishes a new minimalist art piece, based on geometric shapes, on his tumble log named Geometry Daily. I get a serious flow when I draw simple shapes, combine them and experiment until they start to “sing”. Zitzmann explains that he wants to concentrate on relevant things, as our daily lives are full of noise and complex dependencies. He wants to concentrate on the idea and execute it straight-forward, without fuss. Since the start of the project he has build up an impressive collection of graphs of which I made a tiny selection attached to this post.


In March of this year, multidisciplinary designers Signe Emma and Alice Young produced and exhibited an installation titled The Edge, at the Stour Space Gallery in Hackney Wick, London. The beautifully crafted project focuses on the vulnerability of the Eurozone, illustrating how the Euro is teetering ever closer to the edge of collapse. To demonstrate the effect of this collapse we used 100 sheets of A0 paper, which were individually cut to represent the imminence of a foreclosing gap. The assembly of the economy is ultimately the bane of its existence as expressed through each layer and finally to the last where none of the edges of the countries are cut out. An almost transparent Euro symbol in the top left hand corner serves to further the idea of weakness in the currency. I really enjoy the visual effect and simplicity of this installation whilst communicating a very complex issue. Very nice work.


Until September 9, photographer Jacky Redgate is exhibiting a collection of work at the Art Gallery of New South Wales under the title, The Logic of Vision. My favourite piece from the show is Untitled, vase shape #1-#5 from 1986-1989, where black objects are placed on black backgrounds (wooden stands which act as both plinths and infinity screens). Viewing them from the front, it is easy to miss the existence of the objects completely, but once we navigate through the space and view them from the side, they come fully into our consciousness. I think this is a marvellous exploration of the potential for the monochrome to render, “three-dimensional ‘things in the world’ into two dimensional images”, and the way colour and space form a relationship in our perception of the world. Writing of the work in 1993, Ross Gibson says: The object itself can not be represented and can only be experienced by the viewer seeing it directly, reinstating an elusive aura of the original which photography has largely replaced, but one which can only be fleetingly grasped. These images do the work no justice, so if you get a chance to see it in person, I’d highly recommend that...


Berlin based German artist Thilo Heinzmann is currently exhibiting his solo project, Tacmo at the Andersen-S Gallery in Copenhagen, Denmark. This interesting and wonderfully executed collection of canvas paintings has been beautifully presented in the gallery, running until 11 August 2012. Each canvas has an intricately structured black surface, illustrating elongated swings, elegant curves, straight lines of varying length and width that result from working into the paint. An acknowledgement of the tradition of colour-field painting, these black planes also become the site of inscription for sparse and well-calculated movements that the artist executes with both a brush and his hands. They produce a visual suppleness and the impression of speed that they project, emerges amidst the general calm that exudes from the paintings. If you managed to see this exhibition in person, please share your thoughts, or if you’re in the vicinity, try to catch it in the next couple of days.