Less Than: Art and Reductionism


The new year often brings catharsis, a fresh approach not weighed down by the clutter of the past. This exhibition, drawn from the QUT Art Museum’s largely post-1960 collection, dallies with a contemporary impulse to minimise, downsize and the mantra of  ‘reduce, reuse, recycle.’ Curator Katherine Dionysius identifies a niche in the institutional collection, finding artists since the 1960s whose work has a reductionist aesthetic, creating a show that is greater than the sum of its parts.

She told Art Guide, “I’m interested in how art – even reductionist art and minimalist art – necessitates the object.

Art is about creating something, an object in the world, not reducing to less. In this sense, reductionist art is such an interesting contradiction.”

What emerges in an exhibition of work of all media from the 1960s to last year is a multiplicity of conversations across the room. A major painting series by Robert MacPherson titled Trace no.2 (1977) is a grid of square canvases that segue from black through a range of shades and surfaces, finally into grey and white.

It speaks in its pattern and repetition to George Ward Tjungurraya’s Tingari Cycle (2006). Peter Atkins’s Hume Highway Project (2010) also works the grid in square canvases, but his floating lozenges of colour have a visual echo in Rover Thomas’s Red Rock Stockyard, Bow River Station (1996).

On a different register is sculpture by Sam Cranstoun, Proposal for long term sustainability: Plano II (2013), compromising spindly white constructions atop green synthetic grass. While the impetus behind these works is not related, in their paring back of an aesthetic, each celebrates restraint, what Dionysius describes as “the artist’s pursuit of the next best thing to nothingness”.

Less Than: Art and Reductionism
QUT Art Museum
18 March – 21 May

Preview Words by Louise Martin-Chew