It is a great joy to meet people applying minimalism in most different fields here at The Elementarist. Not only because it offers us inspiration and allows us to meet great souls and minds. But also because we feel how the concept of minimalism has found its way into literally every imaginable field of application. Today we would like to introduce you to the artist Rabáh M. El A’awar. Born in Dubai, he is now exhibiting his passion and art work all around the world. Today he took the time to take a closer look at minimalist art with us. Enjoy!
Meet Rabáh M. El A’awar
I am Lebanese but was born in Dubai in 1984 have lived there all my life. My father granted me the name Rabáh as he was fascinated by a heroic army general bearing the same name in a Middle Eastern historical soap opera which premiered back in the early 1980s. Rabáh means “a source of profit” and I was a lonely child growing up with great affinity for color.
I was also mischievous and once painted over our entire apartment’s walls, doors and furniture with a marker like Pollock onto a canvas. I had never known of Abstract Expressionism then and while I thought what I did was cool my parents certainly did not. Little did I know that this was my initiation to minimalist art.
Between minimalist art and social expectations
The years rolled by and I was trying to justify my name by becoming a source of profit for my family. I wanted to be that heroic army general, leading his family towards a better life. Focusing on this, I abandoned art for a long time. However, art kept calling me back. I remember how I was fascinated by country flags and their minimal pattern. They looked like the style of Hard Edge Painters – a concept I did not know at that time. I also enjoyed collecting logos and designed some on my own. It felt like my shy, introverted nature was constantly pulling me towards minimalist art.
One day, I ran into an art class in college and learned about the history of art for the first time. I immediately fell in love with the works of Piet Mondrian, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Helen Frankenthaler and first and foremost: Alfred Stieglitz. I started to practice minimalist art and abstract expressionist painting again, and discovered photography at the same time. One of my very first attempts was a try to imitate the “Equivalent” series of Alfred Stieglitz by photographing skyscapes.
Committing to art, minimalism and photography
Since then, I did not turn my back on art anymore. A passion that has recently evolved into something that I am really proud: My first exhibition in London at the Brick Lane Gallery. Later that year I had two more exhibitions in Houston: one at the Heights Art Gallery & Studio and one at the Aurora Gallery. Today I am proud to have a body of art that, while being predominantly abstract and minimal, also includes versatile photography practices across various movements and genres. My portfolio encompasses pieces of Environmental Art, Performance Art, Body Art, Post-Conceptual Art, Process Art and post-minimalism.
Try reinventionism some time
Personally, I care less about the picture then the concept behind it. I see a picture as a vessel that ships ashore the final artwork, the concept. One concept that I am particularly interested in and consider myself a practitioner of, is Reinventionism. A movement that I would like encourage other artists to experiment with.
You can do it with an existing photograph, for instance. Divide it into several aesthetic parts. Then alter each of these parts through quadripartite and other reflections before reassembling all parts to form an entirely new image.
The term ‘reinvention’ was attributed to this practice by the installation artist Allan Kaprow whose installations kept being re-reproduced from one setting to another over the years. He called these reproductions reinventions as they “differ markedly from their originals” and are intentionally “planned to change each time they were remade”. I have also noticed other photographers on Instagram who practice this style, namely the artists Noah da Costa, Vana Mayson and Bart Ross whose work I totally admire too.
Minimalism in art
Minimalism is something that I enjoy since my early years. It is a feeling and phenomenon which somehow feels natural to myself as a human being. I can best define it as an attempt to overthrow complications, worries, and unnecessary ornamentation. An attempt to please the eyes with a bare minimum of things. In art, I define minimalism from two different perspectives. On the one hand I see minimalist art as an antithesis to the detail-oriented and realistic photography and art movement. On the other I understand art as a reflection to the buzz of the modern world.
An antithesis to the rise of realism
The invention of photography took art towards a new age. Artists wanted to challenge photography to keep their mediums of painting and sculpture alive. Brush strokes became loosened, visual perspectives began to fade, linear patterning turned bold, objects became flat and and colors became unnatural. While some painters and photographers excelled in realism others preferred to focus on more simple and scarce forms and shapes. The photographer Paul Strand as well as the artists Hiroshi Sugimoto, Agnes Martin, Barnett Newman, Sol LeWitt and Anne Truitt to name only a few.
Minimalist art as a challenge for the audience’s mind
The idea of minimalism is not to have viewers looking at an image and admiring its realistic representation. Or taking 10 seconds just to stare at a plain arrangement of colors before moving on to the next art work. Visual minimalism aims to challenge the audience’s mind. I call to decipher the abstract and to think deeper in order to find answers.
Sometimes minimalism and abstraction are considered as art that could be produced by anyone. I see beauty in this because minimalist art is not limited to a given group of people. Anyone can succeed in it. You just have to do it with passion and from the heart.
Minimalist art as a reflection of today’s world
Nowadays I also feel that minimalist art is the creative result of our constantly changing human lifestyles affecting our mindsets. Humans have become lonelier, and the need for individual independence is continuously rising. Humans do not socialize as often as they used to before, when families were closer.
The rise of minimalism is a reflection of the contemporary conditions of human life. It is not only a beautiful form of art. It is a mirror of our hardly decipherable human mind living in this complex world of today.
Minimalist art requires practice
My methods to create (minimalist) art are constantly evolving and under the influence of various artists. I also believe and practice the concept of psychic automatism. But what is important to me is to make sure to capture and reinvent well-thought images, where visual elements, basic principles of design and the art content are chosen carefully. I also believe that it is important to capture an image without aesthetic preoccupation, and yet still end up with an aesthetic image.
You can train to reach aesthetics without prior planning and make it become a natural habit. I encourage emerging photographers and artists to keep practicing every day. Take a photograph at least once a day. Look at what you have produced. Compare it with other artists’ works. Learn how you can improve or heighten the elements and the design of your work. Practicing will eventually make minimalist art natural to you. Minimalist art might appear simple at first sight but the process leading to it is complex.
Being an artist is sometimes said to be a natural trait, but even the greatest artists struggle to learn certain visual elements. Henri Matisse stressed that an artist should master color above all. Pablo Picasso mentioned that it took him four years to learn how to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to learn how to paint like a child. All human beings need to learn and to practice until they can finally perfect their methods, thoughts, decisions and creations.
The link between minimalist art and minimalism
I understand minimalist art as a reflection of the contemporary human mind. And I believe that a less is more lifestyle is a great way to cope with today’s life pressure where more is never enough. Our professional lifes are upbeat, our businesses are ever-demanding. Piles of work bury our minds. Minimalist living is the answer to the current human condition – just like minimalist art. It is a state of mind where the senses are soothed and the mind is calmed. A state that allows for clearer perspectives and better decision. Minimalism and minimalist art are not only eye- or mind-candy. They are a form of mental medication and therapy.
Of course people come with all sorts of individual likes and dislikes. Thus minimalist living is not the right approach for everybody. And this is important because our societies need variety. Humans and their differences create harmony, just like the colors of the visible spectrum. Baroque is beautiful, and so is minimalism!
Discover more of Rabáh
I welcome everyone to visit my Instagram page and to learn more about my artworks’ explanations that accompany every image I post. There is deep content to my work, and so I share them with the world because I wish to contribute towards a world of intellect and knowledge.
Today, being ignorant has become as good as being knowledgeable. I try to bring back that difference between knowledge and ignorance in the most minimal possible way. Also, I will be promoting my future exhibitions on Instagram, and I will be more than happy to welcome you to attend my exhibitions as your support would mean a lot to me.
I am always welcoming to meet with other artists and art lovers who share my vision and my attitudes towards art and towards the concept of a better world.
Photo credits to Rabáh M. El A’awar