Understanding Minimalism & Colour Field Painting | ARTiculations

July 26, 2019 posted by

I feel like I’ve seen this thing happen
a million times – somebody walks into an art gallery, see a painting that’s just say
a big block of colour or something, and go – what am I supposed to be looking at? And I gotta say – I totally understand this
feeling and I can relate to where people are coming from. These type of works – known in
art history as “colour field paintings” or “post-painterly abstraction." There is
not an immediately obvious way to interact with these works. But as is with everything
else in life – nothing is as simple as it first seem, and there is actually so much
to talk about. Firstly, if you start to think about it. You
may think, well what’s so interesting about colours and shapes? Well, in fact, colours
and shapes ARE super interesting. It’s like asking why is the sky blue. It seems like
– well it just is. It’s so simple. But if you really think about all the intricacies
of the electromagnetic spectrum and you think about how sunlight and its various wavelengths
are dispersed in our atmosphere – well that is super interesting. But if you are still
having trouble, then lets take a look at a few examples. Frank Stella is a painter who was initially
known for painting deductive shapes – such as line and shapes that follow the shape of
the canvas that it’s painted on, are proportional to the canvas, or are geometrically related
to the shape of the canvas. In later years, Frank Stella would go not only paint on canvas
that are rectangularly shaped, he would also go on to produce irregular shaped canvases
such as polygons and half-circles. Artists like Kenneth Noland, Mark Rothko and
Barnett Newman were also know for creating works that explored the elemental nature of
colour. Most of them insisted on making the artworks be about itself and have explorations
of colours and shapes on the canvases be the utmost important factor. You might take look
at a painting by Noland like this one and see some sort of a sunset over a watery horizon
– but that is not how he intended it. Here, the artist’s goal is not have you think
about external factors. You are meant to contemplate and explore the pure elements of the form
itself. This is very different from almost all other forms of art that have come before
it. Almost all other art forms are on some level related to some type of external history,
context or narrative – such as a religious painting that’s supposed to be depicting
a story from the bible, or a cubist painting that's alluding to the horrors of war. Here,
apparently, all that’s supposed to matter are the colour and the shape that are in front
of you. But you might ask – do viewers have to be bound by the artist’s original intention?
Does it matter what they think we should think? And that’s a good question. Some colour field artists are also quite innovative
when it comes to their technique. Some of you may have heard of the artist Jackson Pollock
– who was known for flinging paint onto a canvas with a paintbrush back in the 1950s.
In the 1960s artist Helen Frankenthaler took this in kind of a different direction by not
even priming or stretching her canvases, and instead just laying them horizontally on the
floor. And instead of flinging paint onto a canvas with a paint brush, she just took
buckets of paint and poured them directly onto the floor, letting the paint soak into
the canvas. This approach produced fields of colour that are even, flat and consistent,
instead of brushed and textured. Frankenthaler also inspired many other artists like Kenneth
Noland and Morris Louis. These techniques were revolutionary to many artist because
they had come to realize that in addition to not being restricted by what to paint,
they were also not restricted by how to paint. they were totally no longer bound by the paintbrush
or the easel. Now, you can be a traditionalist and really
dislike how painting got this way. You could say that you don’t consider this type of
painting true paintings because these artists were totally not using traditional painting
methods. And fair enough. Many of these artists themselves, as well as their contemporary
art critics also considered what they were doing to be beyond the realm of painting.
But by doing things such as abandoning the paintbrush, creating two dimensional forms
that are shaped and stained in three dimensional space – these artists blurred the boundaries
between painting and sculpture. They also highlighted notion of colour, shape and space.
Even though colour, shape and space have always been crucial to paintings – they were always
kind of just elemental, background components that were a part of paintings. And these artists
put the elements front and centre stage. And with these breakthroughs – you cannot deny
the tremendous artistic possibilities and creative expressions that were opened up by
people like Helen Frankenthaler and Frank Stella and the subsequent generations of artist
that they inspired. So what do you think? Do you think colour
field painters were successful in stripping their compositions free of external references
and context? And does knowing the intent of the artists affect the way you view and experience
the work? Let me know in the comments. And see you guys next time. Frank Stella is a painting that was in- is
a painting, ha. Frank Stella is a painter Frank Stella is a painting that was
in- oh my god.


38 Replies to “Understanding Minimalism & Colour Field Painting | ARTiculations”

  1. Bilbo Baggins says:

    No mention of Yves Klein?

  2. Sammy S says:

    Very well spoken and very clear to understand. Can't wait to hear more about this style of painting!

  3. Ramesh Ramloll says:

    Serious question here: Is there anything that can be considered not Art? Is it strange to see Art everywhere, hear Art everywhere… touch Art … taste Art everywhere… ? The forms the shapes, the sounds of everything, without any exception … moves me tremendously.

  4. MemerWiener says:

    The start is me in a nutshell

  5. chezceleste says:

    Love it

  6. Theresa Beaumont says:

    Love it
    Thank you

  7. Susie Q says:

    Well said! thank you

  8. Maria Colls says:

    I came back to this post as I wanted to thank you for posts like this. For me you're not only you are giving a good insight to an art movement but a starting point for more research using correct terms. I'm a self taught paper cut artist and as I develop my style, it's good to have some idea where or what direction I want to explore. Cheers. ☺

  9. Michael Flynn says:

    I like 'em

  10. 9enius says:

    Cant believe this needed to be explained

  11. Konstanty says:

    0:25 I'd say that things are becoming simple with time, when we understand them better.

  12. Thomas Stewart says:

    These paintings are really interesting to me. The artists abandon choosing the meaning and somehow this act of leaving everything up to interpretation forces the audience to involve themselves in the painting. It basically hijacks your mind and leaves you lost in thought. No wonder it makes some people uncomfortable.

  13. Oliver Kahrmann says:

    Hmmm.. Sometimes I think art like that is overrated not by the way it is made, but by the way it is presented (and obviously the price tags… but, well, you do you).
    Looking beyond the painting is interesting, yes, but do I visit an art gallery for that, when they might just show the painting? Probably not. I'd read a book or an article or, say, watch a video on YouTube 😉
    The thing is, I would rather have minimalist art in my living or working space to decorate it, have it around me to enjoy the view while going on with my life, than have it somewhere in a gallery and visit "just to see the art".
    But what really puzzles me is people interpreting art beyond the obvious.. I mean.. A colorful box on a white background is.. a colorful box on a white background.. O_o?
    Well, whoever wants to keep doing that, be my guest, everyone needs something to do 😀
    I'll keep enjoying that kind of art without trying to understand it. Understanding is not a requirement here 🙂

  14. heptagonrus says:

    Sorry, your video did not help me to understand such paintings better.
    E.g. a Pollock's painting was shown in the movie Accountant and people there enjoyed and valued the painting a lot. But I don't get why.
    Even less understanding with paintings like Stella's or Newman's.
    From your explanations it sounds like they are some kind of experiments. In that case a book with good color schemes and patterns for interior design is much more valuable than the paitings, because such book will contain much more experiments, unique data, and just more interesting combinations of colors and shapes.
    An ordinary person will enjoy such book more than the paintings.

  15. mark heyne says:

    So she thinks Guernica is Cubist and Pollock is a Colour Field painter. Did she get through Art History 101?

  16. Penguinz 9000 says:

    I hate color field painting. They take no skill and the artists do not deserve that much fame/money.
    The thing about art is that the artists rise in skill throughout their hard work and practice. However that principle does not apply to minimalism & color field paintings so I consider it to be cheating (as compared to regular artists). My opinion, of course.

  17. patleo123 says:

    A super essay. Strong verbalization and articulation, and choice of words. I am very very impressed.

  18. Bobby The Other Bobby says:

    Great presentation. I love learning about the artist’s intention, but my enjoyment of a piece does not require it.

  19. Cliff DaRiff says:

    Great video! Stella is the best, baby.

  20. Sanjeev Saroy says:

    I know nothing about art and have never really been able to grasp more than what I'm seeing, but there's something about the colour set used in Frank Stella's Chodorow.. I'm hooked! Thank you.

  21. mark prescott says:

    Thank you for this.  As I am a Kenneth Noland fan, I found it fascinating.  Hope that you do many more videos.  Best of luck.    Cheers.

  22. H Max says:

    I wish that people looked at other people the way we look at art or the way this video suggest we do. We would not be bound by just the surface of the skin but to look at it with more soul or heart. If we can find beauty in Picasso, Dali, Pollock, Rothko; then why we can't do the same with people?

  23. annie mody says:

    That was a wonderful video packed with information that non-artists who are trying to learn a thing or two about art, artists & techniques can easily grasp. Thanx so very much.

  24. Samuel Wall says:

    Love this video thank you so much!

  25. m7Vic says:

    Thanks for speaking so well, and clearly expressing your provocative thoughts!

  26. Christopher R Schmidt says:

    I know nothing about Art, with or without the capital A, so learning some of the thoughts of the artists behind these artworks is interesting to me, even though I have little in the way of opinions 🙂 Thanks for the video!

  27. Memory Amethyst says:

    My first large painting was a colour field painting. I love the genre. I find that with viewing colour fields, I connect in three ways: I connect to one specific colour, then how that relates to the other colours, then to the shapes themselves. I find for myself that seeing minimalist paintings evoke a greater emotion from me because they are not telling me what to see or how to see it. I think I learn more about myself and my state of mind while delving into a colour field.

  28. Fraser Radford says:

    Great video! I wish I had the opportunity to see the exhibition at the AGO. With Colour Field/Post-Painterly Abstraction, I also feel that they weren't afraid to also experiment with the size of their work. As a Colour Field artist myself (and only recently becoming comfortable/confident in calling myself as such), I am starting to paint on larger pieces of canvas and it feels more freeing…if that makes sense. Don't get me wrong, looking at a large blank canvas is terrifying, but once you get into it, nothing can stop you. You should also look up Friedel Dzubas, Jules Olitski, Sam Gilliam, Larry Poons, and Alma Thomas. Amazing painters. If you wanted to see some of my work, here's my website: www.fraserradford.com. Thanks again for the video.

  29. Little Art Talks says:

    I freaking love Color Field Painting +w+ One of my favorite time periods 😀 great video, Betty!

  30. Tiago Avelar Guimarães says:

    Got here thanks to Soliloquy … Great video!

  31. Mr/Clusterfuck says:

    soliloquy sent me here and I love what're doing here.

  32. 1book1review says:

    Oh that was super helpful, thanks Betty. I often just find myself thinking of L.A. Story when faced with a painting of one color.
    Will remember this and see how it changes my perception next time I come across art of this kind.

  33. Soliloquy says:

    I don't think I'm capable of separating myself from my experience to "contemplate and explore the pure elements of the form itself". John Green has said before that the readers experience of his book is always different to what he had in his mind when he wrote it – and that's awesome. Artists seem to often what you approach their work in a specific way, it kind of comes across as a bit entitled and obnoxious really.

  34. Oliver Bollmann says:

    Nice! Even to this day, non-representational and non-narrative art is more rare than the converse, and encountering it for the first time is something… well, different. Takes a bit to wrap one's head around (and probably many are taken aback too :P). This is a great invitation to stop, view, be with it, and to explore. 😀

  35. bridgetisadreamer says:

    oh I had no idea about the history of these things! That's very inspiring and fascinating 🙂

  36. Knowledgeable Reaction says:

    I think the artist's intent matters very little in interpreting art. for example people associate colors with different things. if I saw say a white canvas with a black line painted down the center i would interpret that as two married people separated by death (cause white is usually associated with weddings in western cultures, and black is associated with death). To say that the colors themselves are art and have standalone meaning might remove the viewer from the experience and lessen the impact of the art's ability to help that person explore a concept or Idea -Omar


  37. Pedro Pavioti says:

    Great video! Thanks for the amazing content you produce :}

  38. Marshella Quintanilla says:

    awesome :3

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