Less=more and limits are good!

By skiour / Posted on 19 January 2011

The creator’s function is to sift the elements he receives from her [the imagination], for human activity must impose limits on itself. The more art is controlled, limited, worked over, the more it is free…. If everything is permissable to me, the best and the worst, if nothing offers me any resistance, then any effort is inconceivable; and I cannot use anything as a basis, and consequently every undertaking becomes futile…. I have no use for theoretic freedom. Let me have something finite, definite—matter that can lend itself to my operation only insofar as it is commensurate with my possibilities. And such matter presents itself to me together with its limitations. I must in turn impose mine upon it. So here we are, whether we like it or not, in the realm of necessity. And yet which of us has ever heard talk of art as other than a realm of freedom? This sort of heresy is uniformally widespread because it is imagined that art is outside the bounds of ordinary activity. Well, in art as in everything else, one can build only upon a resisting foundation: whatever constantly gives way to pressure, constantly renders movement impossible.

My freedom thus consists in my moving about within the narrow frame that I have assigned to myself for each one of my undertakings. I shall go even further: my freedom will be so much the greater and more meaningful the more narrowly I limit my field of action and the more I surround myself with obstacles. Whatever diminishes constraint diminishes strength. The more constraints one imposes, the more one frees oneself of the claims that shackle the spirit.

Poetics of Music by Igor Stravinsky

Although Stravinsky’s comments were directed towards musical composition, they certainly apply to all art forms. Well at least the participants in De Stijl certainly felt so, limiting themselves to the primary colours: red, yellow, and blue, and the primary values: black, white, and grey.

Composition with Yellow, Blue, and Red - Piet Mondrian

Composition with Yellow, Blue, and Red, 1937–42, Piet Mondrian. Oil on canvas



Art, Literature


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