Tag Archives: bauhaus

The Modernist Era [Reading Response]

The first essay starts off with the idea that Modernism doesn’t propagate a single “truth”, but rather a set of conventions that the audience can engage with. I agree with his idea that taking action is easier with a set of conventions to agree or disagree with, akin to a debating, which I do as a co-curricular activity – motions such as “This house would only display feminist art in galleries” could be taken to be the convention, and debaters could then take action for or against the motion. In this sense, modernist artists, to me, are like cogs that set gears into motion.

Milton Glaser then writes about how he does not believe that one principle, such as “simplicity or reductiveness”, can be universally applied to every problem – that people are too complicated. I somewhat agree with this view – I think there are fashions of every time period – maybe in the 21st century, it could be minimalism and elegance, and designers could make more profit if they subscribed to these norms. But then again, breaking these norms can also work to artists’ benefit, for uniqueness can gain you notoriety and fame (like Damien Hirst and his preserved animal sculptures). I think everyday artists today subscribe to some base ideals that could gain them profit, but also try to inject their own personal flair so that they can capitalise on their “signature look”.

Glaser is also evidently against the Modernist idea of not representing forms from real life, citing reasons such as that he feels that they take away from the eroticism and passion of life. He then goes on to tie this apparent lack of passion to why corporations favour Modernist ideas in mass production, noting that its ubiquity signals that Modernist ideas will not die anytime soon. In my opinion, it makes sense that brands such as Apple subscribe to such ideals in order to appeal to the largest consumer base, unhindered by personal touches that could potentially alienate some markets – after all, every human is vastly different in their wealth of experiences.

The second essay takes on a more positive view of Modernism, noting the backlash against it in the Postmodern movement, then the author’s own tendencies towards Modernist paintings in his youth and later, and the changing face of Modern design. I was especially struck by his example of Grapus, a collective that “goes to great lengths to make their work appear immediate”. Researching more about them, even though it looks rushed, takes great effort to portray a “Hot-off-the-press” vibe, which is another Modern thought. In his analysis, I came to understand Modernism more as a set of changing philosophies rather than a set of rules that dictate how minimalist things should be, which seems to be the main criticism hurled at the movement.

In the last essay, Rudolph deHarak suggests another essence of Modernism – to create and evolve forms that communicate content richly. He notes that the Swiss Style and Bauhaus, which was critiqued rather harshly in the first essay, were “essential developments and strong reflections of their time”

He also talks about how his understanding of Modernism has changed throughout the years, most noticeably, how he is more interested in the idea of problem-solving now. He champions Modernism for suggesting a movement ahead of its time, for organic change, and for creativity and problem-solving. I feel that this is a much more balanced view than the first essay, for I do agree with him that design is very much problem-solving oriented now (in the graphic design industries – for example branding, for it is definitely difficult to form a cohesive, lasting brand for a company), and that concept has come about through the gradual, organic evolving of Modernism itself.

Bauhaus Creative Response

For our final creative response, we were tasked with creating a piece inspired by the Bauhaus, exploring the relationship between shapes and colours. Wassily Kadinsky believed that circles should be blue, squares should be red and that triangles should be yellow. From the survey in class, many of my classmates agreed with this; I did not at first instinctively (I thought triangles would be red), but after the discussion and explanation of Kadinsky’s thoughts, I agreed with his logic.

Thought Process

In between the week from when we were given the task and the week it was due, I was in Vietnam for the Asian British Parliamentary Debating Championships. Being in another country enabled me to get a new perspective on Singaporean culture. 

One feature that struck me was how little people used their phones in Vietnam. In fact, I barely looked at my phone for the whole of the trip, only using my laptop during the small pockets of time I got at night to do my assignments. More than that, I felt like I didn’t miss using this technology – in Singapore, I would take frequent phone breaks – on the walk between classes, to classes, from classes back to my room in student housing. I felt that it was a Singaporean thing to use our gadgets so much on our commutes and look like you’re texting someone, or watching something, or listening to something, because I had the comparative of hardly ever seeing people using their phones on commutes/out in public in Vietnam.

It might be because of Singapore’s nature as a first world country and the constant need to be be contactable and be on top of work assignments and group assignments, but I really felt that the Vietnamese did not function that way in developing Vietnam. I saw way more non-smartphones (phones with actual buttons to press for numbers, not touchscreens) in Vietnam than I thought I would, and realised how rarely we see that in Singapore – it’s the norm to have a smartphone, and to use it all day long. In this way, I feel that Singaporeans are really tied to their electronic devices.

I made a mindmap to have some elements to focus on (above). I eventually decided to focus on circuitry and circuit boards as they were immediately representative of electronics and technology.

Final work


This piece explores the concept of Singaporeans being very tied to their technology. I used this circuit board as inspiration, making “lines” out of smaller squares. I felt that they give the piece a tribal feel, which I enjoy for its oxymoronic quality as technology is such a new invention. I feel that the work is kept contemporary with its minimalistic outlook, though – much of the green background (to mimic the circuit board background) can be seen, and the geometric elements do not overpower it. 


Cover image from https://visual.ly/blog/six-lessons-from-the-bauhaus-masters-of-the-persuasive-graphic/