The Simplicity Test

A switch occurs and a light goes on. It takes a fraction of a second. The fact that it works is immediate and clear. However, what does the light reveal, what is in the darkness, and where does the light’s energy come from? The fact that illumination occurred is a simple observation, while the meaning and science of light is an expansive subject.

I made a drawing akin to the act of switching on a light. Likewise, the drawing was to be simple (i.e. providing directness and a demonstrative outcome without being overly labored). While some of these goals were attained, I found that simplicity was an abstract idea about where we stop looking or investigating and where we let complexity rest. If one compared two examples (e.g. a drawing of a light on and off) one could make an assumption or judgement about which is simpler.

Simplicity requires a reference. It is the comparison that allows for an accurate judgement. However, a judgement is not always easy. Because constraint is a key indicator of simplicity, I remain unconvinced that simplicity is synonymous with minimalism. Where simplicity requires us to stop, the minimalist impulse encourages us to look in an expansive way with less. Minimalism shows us that the criterion to make a judgement about simplicity can be too simple. In other words, what is simple is not always so simple.

It may appear like simplicity is being disparaged or an impossibility. However, simplicity can bring enhancement and order where there are challenges. When engineers and computer scientists create a structure, it may require complexity. However, the goal is not complexity. Rather, the goal is to make the complex organized, manageable, and thus simpler. On a personal level simplicity is important because we need to know the limits. When an activity adversely effect another activity, eventually we need to stop one of the pursuits for the sake of simplicity. This judgement is not often easy and requires case by case reflections to reach the best balance.

With regard to a balance, looking at my drawing, I wonder if I passed the simplicity test? The answer is that the light works, but the process and results are not so simple. It is a mix, and this is what provides a small measure of character.

Roadside Attractions

The drawing below was an accident. It was made at a time in the night when fatigue overtakes the body and mind. What started as a drawing of a walnut began to look like something else. Later a background was created and a note about a 2:30pm appointment was retained. This experience of happy or curious accidents building upon each other reminded me of travels where curious monuments and markers appear. While I might forget most of the details of a trip, I would not forget a strange door that leads directly into a mountain.

After walking around the village in Poland, where I live, I could spot a few examples of unusual landmarks. The first image, while not very peculiar in Poland, looked strange to me. It is a man-made nest for Storks. This is part of a strategy in Europe to protect the species.

The second image, seen below, appears to be an abandoned swimming pool. Because of age (likely built during communism) and disrepair, a range of color is revealed. However, I can’t help but wonder what it was like when it was in perfect working order.

With much planning for a sense of sublime order, we ought to feel grateful for the oddities we find. Without such contrasts we might be stuck in a sublime sense of sameness (i.e. happiness in a world of perceived order). However, this mindset remains an illusion.

Driven to Distraction

Because I lack expert knowledge about pandemics, like the one the world is currently faceing, I felt it more useful to write about something else. Perhaps metaphors could be found here. However, my main intent is examine and reconcile competing demands.

As I have been focused on fatherhood and a new job, my artistic output has dwindled. In fact, I thought I was facing an artistic death. This would be a minor tragedy in relationship to a literal death. Additionally, while pre-occupied with more basic responsibilities, travel has seemed more of a luxury. I am currently living in Warsaw Poland, and one of my more modest goals is to visit the city of Zamość. It is described as an ‘ideal example of a Renaissance town’.

For now any travel has been postponed. However, after mentioning my desire to spend a day in Zamosc, I was gifted a book about Italian Renaissance architecture (the Renaisance represented a rebirth). I started making drawings inspired by this architecture. So far, all that I could complete was an image of a doorway.

Renaissance Door
Renaissance Door

While creating an image of this door is a start, I imagine being at this threshold viewing a city. It is my hope to eventually see Zamość and perhaps more drawings will emerge after revisiting the Renaissance.

Unexpected Awe

Advances in travel and comunication may make the world seem small. However, every once in a while one is in awe of a place larger than one could imagine. I had this experience as a child when I saw the swimming pool at the Flanders Hotel in Ocean City, New Jersey. The pool was so impressive that I found it both facinating and a bit frightening. In my child’s mind I thought, who would build their own ocean and how could someone get to the middle without drowning.

It was hard to imagine being struck by such a similar feeling as an adult. However, while on a train from the Polish city of Gdańsk to the town of Sopot, I saw building larger than my conception could accept. I later read online that such a building may have up to 6000 people living it. To be living in the middle of it seems simultaneously intruiging and overwhelming.

Image of the building found on google maps.

Along with the fleeting feeling of being impressed by the enormity of the building, there was an experience of being on a train and on a trip to the sea. I created a drawing in an attempt to document this memory. In the drawing below the autumn day, the building, and the journey to sea become locked together.

En route to Sopot, Watercolor & Ink, 41cm x 13cm (15″ x 5″)

It is easy to realize that the two places described, the pool and the building, are small compared to oceans, planets, and the wider universe. However, size is relational and our thoughts are expansive. With reflection the cracks and corners of our existance may yield wider vistas. Description and a creative perspective provides ways to unfold an endless stream of details and reinvent a sense of wonder.

En route to Sopot (Detail)

Room For Let

The drawing/painting below was started from a scrap of paper found in a puddle on the way to work. The paper appearing at the top of the drawing was a hand written solicitation that became unreadable. I imagined it being about a lost cat or a room for rent. Using the cut marks on this paper, lines were extended and a new territory was added. Within the larger image, a view of interior and exterior space gets combined. Occupants of the building appear and for certain there is at least ‘one room for let’.

Room For Let, Media: Watercolor, ink, and, collage, Size: 16″ x 7 1/4″

Elsewhere, in the detail of the drawing, one sees signs of activity and life on the balcony. Personality almost gets lost when quickly viewing window after window on a tenement building. However, on closer inspection, ultimately a more idiosyncratic identity emerges.