Less is More
by John Warden
This article was first published in Island Arts Magazine, Spring 2018, Vol. XI, Issue I.
Upon returning from a vacation in Tuscany, my son Ryan told us about the food he had experienced there. “You’ve got to try the ’cacio e peppe’. The brilliance of this dish is in the simplicity of its three ingredients, pecorino cheese, pepper and pasta.”
Well, Ryan knows his food and wine so I found a recipe on the internet and gave it a try. Wow, fantastic! This is an incredible dish. Time and experience have pared away the extraneous to produce a rich luxurious flavour and a meal that is the simple essence of comfort food. And simplicity is a value that slips easily from our aesthetic experience of the culinary arts, into the visual arts.
When I put the words ‘simplicity’ and ‘Vancouver Island’ together, my mind turns to early mornings on the Sooke Basin. Viewed from Billings Spit, there is a stillness across the waters at dawn. The ocean is protected in its basin and a deep quiet is held close by the misty arms of the encircling shoreline. The water is calm and serene. Eventually though, the first of the morning’s fishing boats, breaks free from the serenity and speeds across the basin, towing a line of light in its wake. The visual simplicity of this image speaks to me of the essence of sunrise on the Sooke Basin: its three ingredients - colour, light and line - produces an opportunity for inspired visual expression.
Island artist Takao Tanabe, links simplicity with subtlety and while his thoughts, at the time, were about the prairies, I think they apply to seascapes as well.
"What I think […] is perhaps romantic but it is an enormously simple-looking space and within all that simplicity, it’s very, very rich, very subtle".
Subtlety is a value-added layer of simplicity that can only be discovered by taking the time for a long, slow look. It is a suggestion that hints at extra levels of meaning. Subtlety stimulates the imagination and in doing so, allows the viewer to become involved and engaged with our artwork.
The simplicity of my photograph of a single, perfect wave at Sandcut Beach, near Jordan River, is obvious. It’s a tiny wave by west shore standards, but, in its simplicity, it represents the essence of all waves. Subtle shadows emerging from the fog in the background, hint at the presence of future waves. Therein lies the mystery of this image and its seduction.
As artists, culinary or visual, we hope to develop a relationship between what we have created and those experiencing our creativity. One of the ways we can achieve that connection is through the subtle mystery of the less, revealing the more.
Glenbow Museum. (2017). Retrieved from Takao Tanabe: http://www.glenbow.org/artpad