An article on minimalism should limit itself – to a few words, perhaps to silence. Silence, calmness and stillness would be the most appropriate means of describing this trend in art, but I – obliged to write a column – render at least a minimal account of minimalism, avoiding adornment. In theory and practice.
A distinctive feature of the minimalist trend is that it has been present in architecture, design, music and visual arts for years, never restricted to one group of artists with an established manifesto and never finished – not exploited as Art Nouveau, baroque or cubism. New York of the 1960s – the time when art became uncontrollably dynamic – witnessed the emergence of a movement aiming to simplify forms and bring the number of means of expression to the smooth surface of abstraction. What it cared for were geometric shapes, monumental objects, modules and rhythms with no trace of an artist or their papillary ridges. It seemed as if the movement questioned all the previous, individualized artistic gestures by reducing everything unnecessary for artistic production. What started to appear can be enumerated in the same breath – references to the origins of architecture in paintings and sculptures, a visible fascination with industry, reflections of the minimalist philosophy in the subsequent conceptualism and design, as well as its interrelations with European avant-garde painting and neoplasticism. Finally – the philosophy principles visible in Philip Glass’s music and the works of Hemingway and Palahniuk, the writers who practiced an austere and sparing economy of verbal communication (if we came back to the thought of words).
Minimalist is the contemplation of immaculately made divisions; an anonymous and, in a way, universal aura of composition devoid of traces of the creative process; meditation, precision and – what’s new in the post-war art – the broadening of the sphere of experience by focusing on not only the relation between the spectator and the object, but the spectator and the space around the object. As a result, the audience becomes an actively engaged participant who can feel the works and their resonance in the environment. Asceticism, rational coldness, industrial materials and art telling the reality without any moralizing function – these are the features of Frank Stella’s works (my favorite artist of that time, whose style subsequently evolved in other directions), as well as the works of Richard Serra, Sol LeWitt, Donald Judd and Robert Duran.
I insist that art is understood as a way of thinking*, said Dan Flavin and I think that this sentence has been alive until now, accurately defining one of the roles and the type of a tool used by contemporary artists, architects and designers.
Frank Stella, Black, Aluminum, Copper Paintings
Together with Arkadiusz Ślusarenko, the chef at INK Restaurant at PURO Gdańsk, we started to conceptualize what the table should look like and how the dishes should be served by looking through painting, architecture and sculpture reproductions. We searched for the essence of style not only in the visual dimension, but in the dish itself – in the menu that was to be simple and refreshing on a scorching hot summer day: watermelons and all that’s best in them served in all states of matter; fish with gently displayed natural parts of its quality meal; Asian fresh bouillon with a circle of black ravioli; smoked chocolate and raspberries enclosed in a cuboid. A discipline of no adornment and a pure matter of food – raw and unprocessed – leaving nothing to add. When it comes to the aesthetics of the table, we used geometric motives and elements of painting on both the plate and in elements of flora appearing on the table, designed by a sister duo “Na Trawie”. We searched for the maximum of expression in shapes and textures while – at the same time – intervening minimally in the nature of food and greenery. A somewhat perverse element on the table was the napkins from the cycle “Obrusy niefunkcjonalne” [Non-functional tablecloths] by a young artist and recent graduate of the Faculty of Painting at the Academy of Fine Arts in Gdansk, Edyta Kowalewska. Using only the lines of bending light on a clean white surface, the design of the napkins draws on Polish conceptual drawings of the 1970s.
Rumour has it the dinner was tasty.
Ellsworth Kelly, DarkGreen, Tate gallery
left: Sol LeWitt, 8 Part Cube,1975
Text and concept: Anna Królikiewicz**
Chefs (INK Restaurant): Arkadiusz Ślusarenko, Przemysław Radlak
Flower arrangements: “Na Trawie” (Sława i Alka Murat)
Photographs: Alka Murat
Products used in photo session: On Finger glasses / Agnieszka Bar, Wazon 5 fiolek /Projekt B25
*J. Ryczek; Piękno w kulturze ponowoczesnej, Wydawnictwo RABID, Kraków 2006 p. 49
Artist, teacher, author of numerous exhibitions and installations. She works as the Associate Professor at the Academy of Fine Arts in Gdańsk where she teaches drawing and at School of Form in Poznań where she gives classes titled The shape of taste. In her drawings and objects she deals with a broadly defined corporeality of a body and the fragility of memory. Her latest works touch upon the issues related to the physiology of taste and the phenomenon of synesthesia.