The Importance of Minimalism in a Chaotic, Cluttered World

We live in the busiest, most hectic period in history, to the point where it sometimes seems like things are bordering on relentlessly frantic. The world is crammed with an overabundance of objects, processes, people, ideas, and complexity, and all that stuff ends not only filling the domain around us, but imposing itself on our interior spaces as well. Internally and externally, reality has become cluttered. It can be an overwhelming situation. 

The solution, perhaps, is in Minimalism. I’m not referring to the Minimalistic lifestyle—though that can certainly be related—but rather Minimalist Art. 

So what is Minimalist Art, anyways? And why is it important? To answer that, we’re going to have to jump back in time by a few decades. 

The Rise of Minimalism

Minimalism emerged in the 1960s as a direct reaction against Abstract Expressionism, which had dominated the previous decade. Artists who laid the foundations of Minimalism were of the opinion that art had become overly indulgent, and they sought to strip art down to its barest essentials. The result was a cube here, or a touch of color there. A simple light. A few straight lines. Anything as long as it represented the simplest components of the world.

As Minimalist forebearer Ad Reinhardt (who actually fell in with the Abstract Expressionists, though his work had a recognizably Minimalist flavor) put it, "The more stuff in it, the busier the work of art, the worse it is. More is less. Less is more.”

Minimalist artists were more interested in the beauty of simplicity. It is what it is, each work seemed to imply. And viewers could enjoy it for being exactly that and nothing more. 

The early artists to experiment with this new concept eschewed the term Minimalism, and in fact abhorred the creation of a “movement” altogether. Their whole intention was to remove the decadence that had become prevalent in art, and to eliminate the distance between the viewer and the art by cutting out meaning and high-brow ideas. 

Instead, Minimalist artists were more interested in the beauty of simplicity. It is what it is, each work seemed to imply. And viewers could enjoy it for being exactly that and nothing more. 

Minimalism really caught on when the realms of fashion, design, and theater realized its value. Suddenly its aesthetic became common in what we wore, where we worked, in our entertainment, and in our homes.

The Value of Minimalism

Have you ever noticed how Minimalist Art seems to have a weirdly calming effect when you experience it? It’s as if finally, in this busy world, here’s something that’s not screaming at you for attention. 

When you return home after a busy day of work, traffic, people, and the general madness of life, a home that is decorated with Minimalist Art offers a unique variety of calming space.

Minimalism is all about providing space, playing with light, and implying sensations of presence and absence. These simple concepts leave a lot of room for your own ideas—or even the lack thereof. 

A simple cube or basic repeated pattern offers an abundance of space for you to breathe, for you to ponder, for you to take a break from the chaotic world in which we normally live. Its meaning is based upon how you interact with it. It doesn’t press you to dig for deeper implications, or to understand the biography of its creator, or to draw conclusions. It simply is. And there is a peaceful quality to that isness.

Auto Portrait by Paul Katoe.  Sakura ink , micron pens and fine liner, 42 x 29 cm.

Why Decorate Your Space with Minimalist Art?

When designers caught on to Minimalism in the 1960s, it was with good reason. Simple objects and visuals have a way of creating an easy, unambiguous atmosphere. 

For example, when you return home after a busy day of work, traffic, people, and the general madness of life, a home that is decorated with Minimalist Art offers a unique variety of calming space. It lends your home an air of contemplation rather than more moreness. And you’ve had enough of more all day. 

Minimalist Art affords a similar opportunity in the workplace. It provides the space to think, and inspires the sort of abstract thinking that art offering a more definitive meaning might not allow. 

Theta Wave by Sara Pecanic. Acrylic on canvas 100 x 83 cm.

In other words, Minimalist Art allows you to create the story. So much of the time, that story is pushed on us by external forces. Minimalism does away with that, allowing you to let your own meaning fill the spaces that its simple geometry and light have left open. 

As one of the originators of Minimalism, Frank Stella, put it, "All I want anyone to get out of my [works] and all I ever get out of them is the fact that you can see the whole idea without any confusion. What you see is what you see."

And how refreshing is that? In a world where everything seems to have some ulterior motive and hidden meaning, this simple idea that what you see is what you get takes the pressure off.

Choosing Minimalist Art for Your Space

So does that mean that all Minimalist Art is equal, and that any and all simple pieces offer the same value?

There is a long answer to that, but the short answer—the Minimalist answer—is no. But also, sort of. Standards by which Minimalist Art is judged do exist, but they have more to do with implication than technical skill

To put that another way, the quality or importance of a Minimalist piece is really up to you. When you’re considering a Minimalist piece—whether for your home, office, or just in passing at a gallery or museum—ask yourself a few basic questions:

  • Does this piece please me?

  • Does it provide me with a sense of calm or peace?

  • Does it bring to mind any specific feelings or stories from my own life?

  • Does it reflect the feeling that I’m hoping to inspire, either in myself or in the space where it will be viewed?

These all might seem like very basic questions, which they are. Sometimes it’s the most elementary questions that reveal the biggest answers. 

And that’s kind of the whole point of Minimalism in the first place. The goal is to eliminate clutter and congestion. Life provides plenty of that on its own.

The escape from all that chaos is Minimalism. 

Inside Out by Tatiana Harizanova. Oil on canvas 80 x 80 cm.

Article written by Nick Hilden

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