What is Minimalism?

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

Minimalism is a broad term that is used to describe movements and the arrangement of various elements in various creative and artistic works and endeavors. While many people tend to associate minimalism with painting, the principle is also applied in the creation of musical compositions, theatrical performances, and even interior design. In all cases, minimalism is defined as eliminating elements that are considered to be unnecessary and allow the fundamental features to function in an unencumbered fashion.

Minimalist design utilizes clean lines and uncluttered space.
Minimalist design utilizes clean lines and uncluttered space.

While the concept of minimalism has been around for centuries, the idea came to be understood as a specific artistic form during the 20th century. In terms of painting, minimalism is thought to have emerged from the modernism period of the early part of the century and gaining its greatest influence after the end of World War II. Minimalist artists often would create visual images that were stripped down and considered bare by traditionalists. While the detractors of minimalism find the work lacking in depth and scope, proponents of the art form often see this art form as focusing on fundamentals that are not marred or hidden by the introduction of secondary elements.

The performing arts have also made good use of the idea of minimalism. Rather than relying on elaborate staging to set the mood and tone for a stage production, the movement and presentation of the actors carried the responsibility for establishing the time, place, and direction of the play. This minimalistic approach is often considered to be both a challenge and a boon for the serious actor, in that the performer is the means of conjuring up images in the minds of the audience that help to create the full scene in the mind’s eye.

Interior design has also been impacted by minimalism over the years. The use of clean simple lines and uncluttered space are fundamentals of any type of minimalistic design. While the space remains functional, there is usually little to prevent the eye from settling on the basic components of the design. Minimalism in decorating and design often appeals to people who seek peace, quiet, and order after doing battle in a chaotic world for most of the day. From this perspective, a room decorated with a minimalistic touch can be seen as a means of retiring from the busy-ness of the world and entering into a sanctuary that is uncluttered and serene.

Minimalism also impacts other art forms. Music, literature, and landscaping all contain examples of the influence of minimalism. Essentially, any environment that is maintained in a state that is simple, free of a great deal of ornamentation, and contains only basic elements can be considered to be minimalistic in nature.

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

After many years in the teleconferencing industry, Michael decided to embrace his passion for trivia, research, and writing by becoming a full-time freelance writer. Since then, he has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including wiseGEEK, and his work has also appeared in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and several newspapers. Malcolm’s other interests include collecting vinyl records, minor league baseball, and cycling.

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Discussion Comments


Has anyone heard of an art trend called "neo-minimalism?" If you are reading into minimalism you will probably run into this term and think that this is a new minimalist trend. I've been working with minimalist art form through paintings and would like to share my opinion that "neo-minimalism" is not at all minimalist as the name suggests.

"Neo-minimalism" is said to carry some minimalist elements but it also has characteristics of many other art trends, like conceptual art and pop art. I think because of these other influences, it should not be called "neo-minimalism." I mean how can something be sophisticated and basic at the same time?

They also call this art trend "Neo Geo" which is a much more suitable name because it does heavily use geometric shapes.


Minimalism is simple but it is not plain. My husband and I chose a minimalist design for the interior of our house. Our goal was to make everything look as natural as possible with only some small detailing to add some warmth to the overall look. For example, we used natural stones for our bathroom interior with basic colors like creme, white, brown. But it doesn't look plain at all, it looks very elegant.

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