After visiting Malevich’s recent exhibition at the Tate Modern in London I’ve been infatuated with his Suprematist paintings, particularly his ‘White on White’ canvases. The intricate compositions created earlier in his career, consisting of scattered coloured elements, gave way to simpler forms and single panes of colour. This white against a white background represented a final liberation from the world of visible forms, and these abstract themes attracted me to the work of American photographer Mary Ellen Bartley. Her minimalist aesthetic is quite brilliant, and I enjoyed her new series for 2014 titled ‘Push 2 Stops’, a set of pictures of empty photo sleeves arranged on a light box.
Obviously inspired by abstract paintings and compositions, Bartley has layered these vacant sleeves to create different shades alongside simple annotations and the odd coloured sticker. What I love most about abstract art is the concept of breaking something down to only the necessary components, and this can be linked to all forms of design and craft. As creatives we’re searching for purity in our work, and art can often be a starting point for inspiration, for example Zaha Hadid using Malevich as a source of architectural inspiration.
It’s great how Mary has elaborated on such a simple material, creating interesting and subtle shapes with just photo sleeves on a light source. Most people don’t understand that simple, in my opinion, is the hardest thing to achieve. Mary is playing with both light and space, much like an architect or designer would in any profession. Hopefully you take something from these pieces of work, and next time my words might make you look at abstract compositions in a different way. Enjoy!