Foundations reconstructed

Compilation of Canadian artists helps viewers clarify their misconceptions towards minimalist art

While Less was filled with minimalist pieces, the artists are still able to express the meaning of their work.
While Less was filled with minimalist pieces, the artists are still able to express the meaning of their work.

Art for art’s sake is still art, though not the most popular kind.

Less, one of the latest features to arrive at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre, is a tribute to minimalism, attributing eight Canadian artists whose mediums range from sculptures to paintings.

Minimalism, a seemingly underappreciated art style by the majority of the public, can be easily misunderstood at first glance. That’s the view I took when I walked into the gallery.

Almost all of the pieces had only black and white in them. Some only kept themselves from sinking into the white walls because of their slight offset sepia colour. The artwork seemend bland, using formal shapes and contrasting depth between blacks and whites to differentiate each piece from the others. However, after I began to read the description of each piece, I became more intrigued.

Peter Kolisnyk’s Untitled pieces were fascinatingly more minimalist than the others in the gallery. The first piece to the left of me was two off-colour, almost beige squares with rough texture and centres either sunk into the larger square or protruding out of it.

The other piece of the same name was similar, this time consisting of three squares hanging off the wall, also of an offset white colour.

The longer I looked at these two pieces, the more I admired the cleverness of the artist. Instead of creating a complex painting with myriad colours, Kolisynk used the least amount of detail and depth.

By using smaller depth and less colour, Kolisynk’s piece stands out from its surrounding environment, just enough to be considered artwork.

Henry Saxe’s Three is a Number of One is another piece that caught my attention. Almost mistaken for clutter on the floor, Saxe created this industrial sculpture by bolting together four chunks of scrap metal he found in his studio.

Three of these chunks were identical slabs of blackened metal, while the top one was weaved and kept the sculpture together with the bolts hammered into the piece, creating an art from something meant to be tossed aside.

Saxe’s sculpture takes the viewer into the mind of an artist, finding ways to give significance to everything in their environment.

This tribute to Canadian minimalists was initially underwhelming, but this was due to the perspective I approached it with. Like many others, we look to artists and expect them to create a complex canvas full of colour and depth, but these artists choose to stretch boundaries instead.

By using seemingly artless objects or putting the least amount of detail into one’s work, artists like Saxe and Kolisnyk question the fundamental ideas of art and experiment with what defines artistic culture.

Less is on exhibit in the Historical Feature and R. Fraser Elliott Galleries at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre until Feb. 24.

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