Updated: Nov 8, 2020
I will never forget, many years ago, while proposing print selections for a specific project, one of the interior architects we work with said "Never forget Martin, great design lies down quietly and behaves itself", coming from the same person who went on to say, in complete contradiction, "if it doesn't clash it doesn't match", I realised an incredible truth in his first statement, and I am still trying to understand his second.
So this begs the question, why is it that most people, when it comes to specifically wall art, prefer simplicity over complex imaging?
Well, for what it's worth, allow me to share my thoughts as I throw in my ten cents worth into the hat. My first observation is that we, as humans, are continually bombarded by visual information 24-7, from everything we see navigating through our typical day to day life, to what we see on our smart devices, computers, television, cinema, theatre, and so on. Our visual system is what I can best describe as "selected peripheral vision" combined with an exceptionally quick auto-focus ability. This means that although we can perceive and understand the entire scene we are looking at, we can only concentrate "focus" on one single element at a time as all surrounding information around that point of focus blurs. As our eyes link to the brain, I believe that this system allows up to cope with mass visual information as we remain aware of everything within our peripheral vision, but only remain focused on a single element at a time. It's funny that our autofocus is so quick that we are led to believe that we can see all things at once, but we cannot.
This goes for everything we look at, from the most distant scene to something we visually study close up. I often tell my students when discussing this phenomenon, that at the end of the month when your money is tight, you can choose to look at a specific transaction on your bank statement without looking at the balance, even though these columns are right next to one another.
My second point is that generally speaking we as humans are rather lazy when confronted with visual information input. We would rather ignore, or gloss over than have to work hard. What do I mean? Well when given a very busy composition to look at, instead of taking our time and working through each focus point of information, most of us would choose to ignore the whole photograph and just move on. I think this again is because we are continually bombarded by so much visual information on a second to second basis that we very often choose not to look at everything, again just so that we can cope.
Isn't it funny, on the other side of the coin, when it comes to taking photographs when I ask a student why they created such a busy composition in the first place? The answer I often get is that they just want their photograph to be interesting. On the contrary, most great compositions are achieved through simplicity. It has as much to do with what we choose to leave out when photographing, than what we decide to include. By removing elements in a composition, we create mystery and interest. Success is achieved by introducing the story and letting the viewer complete it using their imagination.
Now we move on to prints for the wall using the same principles just discussed. I have found that the artwork within an interior is most effective when it is considered as a focal point that compliments the design itself. Simplicity here is again, most often the key. When artworks are heavily packed with visual points, it will have the opposite effect by moving the viewer's eye away. Simplicity feels airy and light and can be revisited over and over. It offers a welcome break from the busyness of life and a breath of fresh air. Less here is undoubtedly more.
Silver Waters Collection by Samantha Osner
This month we released two new print collections that emphasise minimalism. Samantha Osner, my daughters "Silver Waters" and my "Utopia" portfolio, both demonstrates the power of minimalism. In silver waters, long exposures eliminate the texture of the water and soften the sky, this combined with strong elementary shape silhouetted in contrast is merely outstanding.
Utopia Collection by Martin Osner
With Utopia, a very narrow field of focus blurs of and simplifies the surrounding visual information. It introduces a dream-like calming aura. What's also interesting to note is that Utopia is very similar to the way we as humans see, a sharp area surrounded by peripheral blur.
Solitary Collection by Martin Osner
In the two other examples, "Solitary No.1" demonstrates a composition that is simplified by dust while photographing in a sand storm and Samantha's striking print called "Serenity" of an old jetty taken using an exceptionally long exposure time shows off simplicity at its best.
Serenity by Samantha Osner
It is said that if one leaves room for misunderstanding, the chances are that you will most likely be misunderstood. So let me make my point as clear as possible. What I am not saying is that simplicity and graphic shape is the only option to consider.
Documentary style imagery can encapsulate interesting stories and revisit points in history. Landscape Photography, on the other hand, can evoke emotion and stimulate memories of places once visited. Portraits can remind us of people, encapsulate character and portray cultural influence. Still, life images will showcase recognisable items and reference iconic designs and abstract will undoubtedly challenge the imagination. These are all very interesting and fitting for wall art, but, and it's a big but, simplicity will always stand the test of time, and can be achieved in all the genres mentioned above. Besides what you choose to hang on your wall, simplicity in itself is the true genius in most things in life. As Leonardo da Vinci said "Simplicity is the ultimate Sophistication."