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Considering simplification

Simplification is an important step of the Perceptive Effort as it is the deciding factor for how our brains will view an object for the rest of time. But why is simplification so exceedingly difficult to practice?


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Parker Dellis

4 months ago | 5 min read
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Simplification is an important step of the Perceptive Effort as it is the deciding factor for how our brains will view an object for the rest of time. But why is simplification so exceedingly difficult to practice?

Incomplete Open Cube №5–6. Sol LeWitt. 1974

Artistically speaking, simplification is a spectrum ranging from being specific to simplistic. For daily life, simplification acts as a tool to better perceive the world around us. We simplify ideas, people, signs, instructions, and so on so that we can move swiftly and confidently through our day. In this process, it is easy to oversimplify aspects of life that truly need the time and care to not be oversimplified.

For artists, simplification has been an effective visual tool that has stayed in trend in areas such as architecture or design. However, simplification in its most intense form leads to oversimplification. Oversimplification is a problem for artists and thinkers alike as it negatively affects the conceptual process in crafting a visual form. As a whole, simplification has a significant role in how an artist responds to the world around them both in the process and in the final perceived form.

Simplification in the Mind

If you remember from my last writing, “The Perceptive Effort: A Defamiliarization of Form”, the Perceptive Effort is a process of simplification that we tend to go through without the intention of crafting a specific perceived form. This instantaneous response dictates our perception of everything as we look to understand the form and function of objects and art.

As seen in Figure 1, simplification occurs right before the form is perceived which shows there is a significance of intentionally simplifying how we perceive the world.

Figure 1. The Perceptive Effort Process

Simplifying the world around us allows our minds to absorb and store information with speed and accuracy at the cost of losing detail. Pushed to grand lengths, the oversimplification fallacy can severely impact how the world and oneself are viewed which for the artist negatively impacts the production of concepts and ideas of an artwork.

Oversimplification

The oversimplification fallacy occurs when someone ignores specific aspects of a complex idea, object, or experience. Oversimplification trends towards negative connotations as it usually ends up compounding an existing problem into a worse dilemma.

For example, people tend to oversimplify complex issues which results in an unsolved issue that has likely grown in complexity. Simplification can be used as a coping process to understand the world around us which could explain why we love to generate meaning out of simple clouds, geometric shapes, and more. It is this internal dialogue of how to balance the appropriate amount of simplification in a given scenario that influences a visual response.

The final perceived form is filtered through an artist’s style in the creation process. The final form is then displayed for a viewer to ask questions about the artist’s intent and process. If the viewer sees a work such as a Donald Judd piece they will believe the process, concept, and visuals are oversimplified due to a simple colored square or rectangle. It is the balancing of simplification that the artists must master to capture the viewer’s attention for long enough to engage with the work. To do this it is important to have a grasp on what simplification is in its simplest form.

Simplification is a process of asking what is valuable and important. This is why artists mustn’t oversimplify a concept or object into the tiniest form of existence because it is unlikely for something important or valuable to be reflected in the final perceived form. As artists, it is essential to allow ideas to flow into a well-informed result where simplification then turns the original idea into something that exists in a complex form. A more informed idea and the process will, in practice, provide a higher quality result. This is seen in a variety of art movements throughout art history, but minimalism uses simplification in both the concept and the form.

Simplification in Minimalism

Untitled. Donald, Judd. 1969

Minimalism was an architecture-based art movement in the 1960s that took to an extreme approach of abstracting artworks into simple geometric shapes. These shapes often time consisted of squares and rectangles as the cornerstone of the work.

Minimalism intentionally simplifies objects through extreme ways without attempting to depict any form of reality. Minimalist art removes the viewer’s interaction with art through emotion or attempting to understand form through their knowledge of the outside world. Minimalist artists simplify everything to the extreme so that the viewer responds to the reality of the object in front of them. These forms came into existence as a response to Action/Gestural painting so that their belief art should not reference anything other than itself. This process of hyper-simplification was highly intentional in concept and execution, and we still see its impacts in movements such as modern minimalism frequently in a commercial space.

Image of Modern Minimalism from Impressive Interior Design

Minimalism differs from oversimplification minimalism was an intentional artistic response to existing problems in the world. Simplification in a minimalist approach forces a specific view of the final perceived form that still holds a highly refined, pure form. This is the true strength of simplification where process and form balance display truth, beauty, harmony, and reflection. These products of simplification are seen in other areas of art such as painting.

The Beauty of Simplification

A present-day example of simplification is in the work of Dan Miller. Miller believes that the true essence of nature is revealed through simplification. For Miller, he spends an endless amount of time with his camera and art supplies observing nature. The spiritual relationship he has with nature is not lost in the translation from his experience, through visual simplification, and onto a canvas for the final perceived form.

Loveland Pass Lakes by Dan Miller

Miller even believes that the soul of a specific place is lost when he tries to include every detail in a complex grand scene. Using specific stylistic techniques he can break down a form into simpler objects. The final result shows a process and final form that reflects the world with intentionality and beauty.

It is important to note that visually simplistic or minimal ideas by no means diminish the quality of highly complex and detailed work. Some of the best works and artists in the world are detailed focused, yet simplification still has its impact in areas like the process. Simplification reminds the artist and the viewer to slow down and attempt to grasp the process of creating, what stylistic methods work best, and how something is viewed. This not only produces more sophisticated works of art in the process but also allows the artists to reflect on their own lives with the same amount of care. In the end, whether simplification is seen or not, it is important to carry forth the importance of simplification with consideration.



Resources:

Simplification in Art (And How to Achieve It) on Dan Miller by Carrie L. Lewis

Why We Simplify by Isabella C. Aslarus

The Dangers of Oversimplification






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Parker Dellis

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Graphic Designer

Learning to write one day at a time. Writing on art, design, health, spirituality, and more.


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