Zen and the Art of Minimalism – Part 2: Mastering the Art

In part 1, I discussed Minimalism and Zen Philosophy. This is part 2 of 2 of ‘Zen and the Art of Minimalism’ where I explore the connection between minimalism and art.

What does the word ‘art’ really mean? People can spend years answering this question. Quite obviously, it doesn’t purely mean paintings and sculptures. The first result of the definition of ‘art’ on dictionary.com is:


/ɑrt/ Pronunciation [ahrt] –noun

The quality, production, expression, or realm, according to aesthetic principles, of what is beautiful, appealing, or of more than ordinary significance.

Here, art is defined as a type of ‘expression‘, which can be interpreted as ‘transferring one’s thoughts and emotions into the material world’. Minimalists believe in the virtues of not having more than what is needed, and therefore ‘expresses’ this attitude by not hoarding material things. At first glance, a minimalist home looks bare, cold and neglected, but a closer look reveals that every item is touched with the minimalist’s love for it’s indispensable value.

What’s more, a lot of people think minimalism is synonymous with depravity. These people are confusing minimalism with frugality. Not all minimalists are frugal, and some invest quite a bit of money on higher quality and longer lasting possessions, which can be simple, but very beautiful. Each item is chosen with intention and care, just like how an artist chooses colours and carefully mixes them together, so that they all work in harmony with each other.

On a superficial level, there is little doubt that minimalism has a lot to do with aesthetics. Getting rid of stuff, means that there is less clutter and  more space, which in my view, is more aesthetically pleasing. For me, there’s nothing more beautiful than empty space, clear surfaces and simple design.

And just like most pieces of art, minimalism is all about what is essential. The really exquisite pieces aren’t tainted with superfluous flourishes or ostentatious garnishes. Each line, carve or brush stoke is done intentionally because each one has a direction, meaning and purpose.

When you eliminate the excess, you’re left with what has more than ordinary significance. Having only a few things that you know you can’t live without means that you are bound to cherish them more than if you had a house full of clutter. Minimalists may look like they don’t care for clothes, gadgets or books because they own so few, but we do care. Everything we own matters to us in some way, otherwise we wouldn’t still have it.

An elegant painting begins with a blank canvas. Each brush stroke is precious, building up, around and intertwining with each other to create an exquisite masterpiece.

A magnificent sculpture begins with a lump of rock. The artist chips away the excess stone to reveal the statue waiting inside to show itself.

But art isn’t just paintings and sculptures.

It could take a short time, or it could take a lifetime. But your home, or your life, is like a large rock or a white canvas waiting for you to express your own unique brand of  art on it.

The art of minimalism, that is.

I’d love to hear your opinions. Do you think there is a relationship between minimalism and art? How do you like to think of minimalism? Please comment below!

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  • Adam

    what a great article. beautifully written.

  • James L

    Great articles parts 1 and 2. Just to add something from my personal opinion RE: art and zen minimalism, choosing monochromatic colors in your art is a way to relax the mind. 🙂

  • Hi Jessica, the two parts of Zen and the art of Minimalism is really nice. I really loved reading them and I agree with what you have written and myself try a lot of follow the footsteps. I once read a line which really says a lot “Being simple is so hard”. I really believe that being simple is very difficult; but once we learn the art of simple living, it’s an awesome thing to happen.