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.
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.
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.
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.