Simplicity And Complexity In Art

This is such a complex topic, yet, on the other hand, it is quite simple. Sound confused? Maybe so. We all engage in this game of drifting from a superficial, simplistic view of things, to a view which is complex, perhaps overly complex. If we are talking about our thoughts on some matter to a friend the simple view may be regarded as an expression of naivety or escape from a matter our friend may already see as far more complex. On the other hand, if we take a more complex view of the problem, we may be viewed by our friend as inventing a problem where there is none to begin with or of just maybe thinking overtime.

In some respects this may be why conversations about most matters start slowly. It gives both people a chance to decide on a level of complexity or simplicity that both may be able to support. The artist in many ways has a simpler task. If art is, in some measure, human effort to mimic nature, then much of the time artistic expression may be about making the complex into the simple. Einstein, arguably an artist who saw the world in a way that no one had ever seen it until then, said “things should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.”

In all forms of art, we want to distill, to simplify and find the essence of our subject, but not to make further simplification beyond that. In order to extract simplicity, you may first try to see the complex, complicated intricacies of your subject. Art follows the mind and perhaps initially achieves a complex simplicity.   The beginning artist is constantly exploring and tends to see greater complexity early that later, when he or she may more avidly seek beauty and see further simplicity. You may be seeing the underlying or defining lines of the subject with greater ease–like discovering a novel element or perspective. As you define it in your art, it may feel like you own it in a very personal way. All along you want to see the beauty and simplicity in the world. Initially, you don’t know that it is there, but as you discover it you know that it is there as it works its way into the defining simplicity of your art. You tend to look inwardly, without thinking or judging. You simplify and begin to see the beauty in your subject, seeing the world with increasing joy.


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