Whenever I find myself looking at a collection of images – in galleries or while surfing the web – I’m inevitably drawn to objects that are both severely understated and yet inventive. I think I’m fascinated by how the artists who produce work like this can still create visual magic even after most of the supportive props are removed. When I look at these images I see obvious materials, simple marks or colors and straightforward compositions. But I also see a love for the elements and principles of design as well as a celebration of the creative process in its most fundamental state.
There are a lot of artists who create work like this, but let me grab a few examples from the web. Here are some designers who illustrate my point…
The first image is by the noted French designer Pierre Charpin. It is felt tip marker on a 28” X 39” (70cm X 100cm) piece of paper. Considering its materials, how much more basic and direct can you get? Felt marker on paper is what you usually use for mailing labels or shopping lists.
Here, however, we have an image that is arguably monolithic in its presence. It seems both ancient and contemporary. It is obsessive/compulsive in its mark making and yet zen garden like in its totality. The repetitive marks also create a textured surface that suggests way more physical substance than what you would expect to see from just a thin piece of paper.
The next image is by English designer Emily Forgot (aka Emily Alston). This is an installation view of her solo exhibition Neverland. The work in this show is inspired by Forgot’s interest in architectural space. The small pieces seen here are simple constructions made from medium-density fibreboard that has been cut into eccentric geometric shapes, painted with flat pastel colors, and then stacked and glued. There is no mystery about the fabrication process and the colors/shapes are totally obvious.
You don’t have to look at the individual constructions for very long, however, before you get caught up in their whimsical back-and-forth banter between real and illusory space. These are solid objects that exist in our three-dimensional world but yet they pretend to be no more than two-dimensional paintings or drawings dependent on illusion to suggest depth.
The last example is by Dutch designer Monique Bröring. This small sculpture is from her series Office Plants. Here Bröring has collected found objects from a variety of worlds and combined them to create something new. Party balloons, a doctor’s latex glove, and a plastic flower pot come together to suggest a humble workplace decoration.
The message could easily be that office plants are little more than decorations and therefore an invented configuration is just as good. I prefer to simply enjoy contemplating the similarities of form between the organic ideal and the invented substitute. It’s the playful mind of an artist at work.
In each of these examples the artist has created elegant and thought provoking objects using simple materials. Their creative process has been stripped down to its essence, but that essence is really the core of what matters most.