Clarity and the Elimination of Obstacles

Creating a work of art requires clarity, which is achieved by peeling and coring your thoughts and ideas one by one.

“The progression of a painter’s work, as it travels in time from point to point, will be toward clarity: toward the elimination of all obstacles between the painter and the idea, and between the idea and the observer. As examples of such obstacles, I give (among others) memory, history or geometry, which are swamps of generalisation from which one might pull out parodies of ideas (which are ghosts) but never an idea in itself. To achieve this clarity is, inevitably, to be understood.”
— Mark Rothko

The ability to look at something and start drawing lines through features or perceived assets of a device, or layout. I think that is a real skill.  I feel that MBA degrees and now even entrepreneurship classes give those that attend their classes a feeling that it is more about how well it is executed rather than thinking more deeply about what it is executing, it is academia for the sake of academia. The thought that a great business can continue to revolve around an ordinary idea needs to be banished from our thinking.

Personally I see this failure with the current Qantas saga whereas they are approaching their traditional business plan from the same perspective, the same process, the same thinking they have used for the last 100 years. They are not drawing lines through add-ons, or creating a better experience for the traveller beyond what has already been done, rather resorting to that tired backstop of reducing costs be it labour, maintenance or materials. This is a tired short-sighted thought process, whereas they will be chasing the same problem as long as there is cheaper labour to found, which of course we know there always will be. Few groups have gone down this rabbit hole and survived for the better.

“The painting must be a revelation, an unexpected and unprecedented resolution of an eternally familiar need.”

The type of clarity to be found through minimalism is probably best benefited by the process behind it. Personally speaking this sort of refinement is something I admire but not something I have mastered or even gotten close to. It’s something I try to work hard at, and would like to sink firmly into. I would like to live in a bare place, with only my thoughts and a pen and paper and some good books. I can’t help but carry on to this quote by Steve Jobs which firmly ties into Mark Rothko’s ‘parody of ideas’ comment.

“I’m actually as proud of many of the things we haven’t done as the things we have done. The clearest example was when we were pressured for years to do a PDA, and I realised one day that 90% of the people who use a PDA only take information out of it on the road. They don’t put information into it. Pretty soon cellphones are going to do that, so the PDA market’s going to get reduced to a fraction of its current size, and it won’t really be sustainable. So we decided not to get into it. If we had gotten into it, we wouldn’t have had the resources to do the iPod. We probably wouldn’t have seen it coming.”