My Minimalism Journey: A Transformation of Life and Art

Clara Berta's Eyes on You, 48" x 60" acrylic on canvas, Minimalism series

Watch Clara Berta discuss her newest series, Minimalism

It all started a year ago after watching the documentary Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things on Netflix. My eyes were opened to a new perspective regarding the value of simplicity and the freedom of having more space to move about and enjoy. The idea of living with less really struck home for me and I embarked on a journey to not only pare down my personal life to the essentials but also to transform my paintings into minimalist art.

What is Minimalism?

A style or technique (as in music, literature, or design) that is characterized by extreme spareness and simplicity (Source: Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

Yves Klein, IKB 191, monochrome, minimalism painting
Yves Klein, IKB 191, 1962, monochrome, minimalism painting

The Minimalism movement really took hold in the United States in the 1960s when a group of prominent artists began taking a simplified approach to their creations. It was a way to move away from the multi-layered and sometimes chaotic works of abstract expressionism like Jackson Pollock’s paintings and get back to the basics with a single gesture or image. The result was art using monochrome colors and geometric shapes like the pioneering work of Yves Klein’s IKB 191 painting or simple, clean lines like Tony Smith’s Free Ride sculpture.

Tony Smith, Free Ride, 1962 minimalist sculpture
Tony Smith, Free Ride, 1962 minimalist sculpture

At the same time, music composers like Philip Glass, Steve Reich, and John Adams also joined the minimalism movement by writing music consisting of quickly repeating chords with small tonal changes being slowly introduced. In literature, the bare bones writing style of Samuel Beckett and Raymond Carver is often considered minimalist too.

Personally, I was truly inspired by the philosophy of the renowned German architect, Mies van der Rohe, who created an influential and simplified twentieth-century architectural style, and is often associated with the quote, “less is more,” the basic tenet of Minimalism.

In recent years Minimalism has become a popular movement as people decide that a life lived with less is more. Sometimes it’s for economic reasons, for some it’s spiritual, but for many, it really is about making life simpler so it’s easy to focus on what is truly important. Minimalism can take many forms from interior design to art to fashion to diet to a complete lifestyle overhaul. It has permeated my life in many ways.

Becoming a Minimalist

Picture of Clara Berta's Minimalistic Loft
Minimalism as displayed in Clara Berta’s Loft

My first step into minimalism was to let go of unnecessary items in my loft space. I got rid of a large table that had become a catch-all for whatever came into the apartment and was rarely used for meals. Next, was to go through the clutter and only keep items that had a purpose or a significant meaning in my life. After I was done my loft was sparse, but still contained everything I needed to live. I felt freer with room to breathe and think more deeply in this wide-open space. Once my personal space was cleared, minimalism began to transform my art.

Creating Minimalist Art

As I continued on my journey into minimalism I found further inspiration from Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and his philosophies on design. He is well known for his aphorisms, “less is more” and “God is in the details“. Although I had been working with several different materials to create many layers and textures in my art for years, I felt the need to simplify and do less with my paintings so I could truly focus on the essence of my work. I started by reducing the number of materials I used. As a result, my technique for applying the paint to the canvas became a fluid gesture rather than purposefully adding and removing layer upon layer of paint like I had before. This approach has led to imagery that flows like a liquid, often developing into splash patterns or reminiscent of jellyfish living in the tranquil ocean depths. My abstract paintings now have more negative white space too, giving room for the art and the viewer to breathe. 

The Cells Within, 48" x 48", acrylic on canvas
Clara Berta’s The Cells Within, 48″ x 48″, acrylic on canvas, Minimalism series

My next step in the minimalism journey was my choice of paint colors. Payne’s Gray has been and continues to be one of my favorite colors. It’s a cool tone that can express a lot of different emotions and can often create a calming and tranquil feel. I decided to keep that as one of my signature colors and it dominates many of the paintings in my Minimalism series. When I do add other colors in the mix they are complementary and cohesive, often revealed as small specs or shadows, so it all feels like one color expression. I do depart from Payne’s Grey, like the bright yellow in Lemon Drops, which creates an upbeat, cheery energy, without feeling overbearing. Keeping the colors simple and subtle keeps my art focused.

Clara Berta's Lemon Drops, 115” x 65”, acrylic on canvas, Minimalism series
Clara Berta’s Lemon Drops, 115” x 65”, acrylic on canvas, Minimalism series

Beyond the Canvas

Large-scale Minimalism painting at BertaArt Studio
Large-scale Minimalism painting at BertaArt Studio

It’s not only what goes on the canvas that contributes to my minimalist art approach. I used to always listen to music when I painted and it often influenced the outcome of my paintings. Now I work in silence so my internal thoughts, feelings, and instincts shape the painting leading to more deeply personal expression in my artwork. My artist studio in Downtown Los Angeles is also very sparse with very little furniture leaving more room for larger canvases and keeping my mind clear of external distractions. While working on a larger scale may not sound like minimalism, staring at these wide and long, blank canvases somehow frees my mind to take more risks as I experiment with moving the paint and allows me to release more of my creativity to tell a clearer story with my art.

Clara Berta's Eyes on You, 48" x 60" acrylic on canvas, Minimalism series
Clara Berta’s Eyes on You, 48″ x 60″ acrylic on canvas, Minimalism series

Moving on with Minimalism 

Artist Clara Berta at BertaArt Studio Gallery with her Minimalism series
Artist Clara Berta at BertaArt Studio Gallery with her Minimalism series

Where will Minimalism take me next? I don’t know yet. I’m truly enjoying the newfound freedom of less leading to more. I feel my art is more expressive. More thoughtful. More expansive. And I feel more people are connecting to it as pieces from my Minimalism series can now be found in galleries across the US and more collectors bring my art into their homes. I look forward to continuing to trust in this new approach to art and life to see how it continues to shape and change my mindset and my artwork.

See more from Clara’s Minimalism series

About Clara Berta

Artist Clara Berta in studio in Downtown Los Angeles
Artist Clara Berta

“Abstract painting is a mysterious journey. From the initial inspiration to the final work, I can never predict the steps in the process or the final image.”

Clara Berta is a passionate, award-winning abstract artist of Hungarian heritage. Her dynamic, highly textural abstract paintings have been exhibited in the US and collected worldwide. A sensibility of simplicity permeates her paintings with areas of bright color juxtaposed with large fields of negative space. This balance, between the focal point and the white space surrounding it, is a delicate equilibrium.

She believes in the philosophy of the renowned German architect, Mies van der Rohe, who created an influential twentieth-century architectural style, stated with extreme clarity and simplicity. He is often associated with his quotation of the aphorism, “less is more.”

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