Jan Baumgartner, known for bringing a passion for colour to his minimalist art style, sits down with Steph Kunkel to explore the opportunity he's been given by web3, why he deplores black and white minimalism, and how his pieces help the viewer travel back in time.
Jan Baumgartner describes his art as “Minimal. Vivid. Bold. A decelerator from the everyday noise.” His unique minimalist style seeks to bring attention to the genre and minimalist form, illustrating how transforming and compelling this style can be and the emotions it can evoke. By letting his emotions and relationships with colour drive the intention for his pieces, he creates artwork that uncovers the norms of focal points in art — letting colour be the heart and focal point of his work, with the people merely accents. His reflective and introspective point of view allows him to draw inspiration from everywhere, creating captivating pieces that we can all relate to.
Jan's artistic journey began while he was training as a wood turner, later evolving as he studied architecture, and he began sharing his own digital work on Instagram in 2015. During the pandemic, Jan saw a drop in his Instagram engagement, and with encouragement from his friends in the art community, transitioned into the web3 space and started spending more time on NFT Twitter.
Traditionally, minimalism can be considered cold and flat, but Jan’s pops of colours enhance and revitalise the genre. One of the drawbacks of mainstream black and white minimalism is that although the compositions are beautiful, lack of colour – which Jan puts down to artistic fear – can make it difficult to discern one artist from another; the pieces tend to bleed together and get washed out. Jan uses colour to express his feelings and his artwork to explore and show people the beautiful power of colour.
Nonetheless, Jan’s creative process begins by sketching geometries in black and white. Once the geometry has strength and really hits him, he then rebuilds it in PhotoShop, only now adding colour, and then later, a person, always a single person. The colour selection process for Jan’s work is extensive, and he typically tries a minimum of 15–35 colour arrangements before selecting the desired colour for each piece.
The last step is the most physical part of the process: it requires Jan to go out and photograph people. He looks for people waiting for the train or bus, people after work, people waiting to cross the street, and expressionless people. He waits for the right person to photograph to capture that intense moment of someone waiting and not moving. This brings stillness and stability to the pieces and tethers a figure to his artwork. There’s almost a silence in this stillness, a period of waiting and simply being. A moment of human expression and exhalation.
Jan, who creates art on Ethereum and Tezos, uses people in his images partly for scaling purposes, to show how large the space is and how a person interacts with the space and colour. By selecting people with blank and emotionless faces, he allows the colour to act as the emotional framework for his pieces; the human figures mere backdrops. This clever tactic invites viewers to insert themselves into the piece and explore their personal relationship with colours, letting the mind wander and explore the memories they associate with that hue. In his intention, this process allows us to transport ourselves into the piece and develop a deeper exploration of our emotions as they relate to colour.
Often, we think of humans as the subjects or focal points of pieces. Jan’s work disrupts this pattern by letting colour dictate the emotions that it evokes. At the same time, Jan embraces the idea of anonymity through his faceless figures, drawing less attention to the people in his artwork and allowing the colours to take the stage.
Jan uses his own memories and emotions to foster his relationships with colours by assigning them personas that give character to the colours in his pieces. He wants viewers to draw a deep emotion behind his visuals; the beauty of Jan’s work is that he knows each person has their own relationship with each colour.
Jan’s artwork makes the composition as focused and minimal as possible to allow viewers to build their own relationship with the piece. “Perception is always based on your point of view. If you see yellow, what I see, might be totally different.”
“Before joining the web3 community, I did what people wanted me to. Now, I do the art I want to do.”
— Jan Baumgartner
Each person will interact with every colour differently, which will evoke and awaken memories from their past, allowing viewers to transport themselves back in time to their own experiences through Jan’s artwork. “At a time when heightened sensitivity is such an obvious need in all areas in which humans are involved," he says, “an awareness of colour can provide a major weapon against the forces of callousness and brutalisation.”
I like to think of Jan’s creative work as a type of artistic time travel, allowing viewers to use colour and composition to evoke and awaken forgotten memories, and take us back to a time when our emotions were raw and true. This allows us to transcend time and space, step out of ourselves and remember a fragment, a moment, that we can capture, distil, and elongate to savour those precious moments of our lives.
“Minimalism in black and white is complete nonsense. There’s no message behind the art, and they just fall flat.”
— Jan Baumgartner
Jan’s new collection is a vacation series, Fragmented Memories, composed of pieces he reimagines from his memories. As opposed to his typical web3 artwork, this series does not include any people, giving Jan the space to explore his own relationship with colour more deeply, while adding more depth to the scenery. This is a chance for him to explore another way of telling others about his passion for art.
Jan reflects on how the world seems to be moving in opposite directions, almost departing from one another. His perception of colour, minimalism, and community allows him to explore and create pieces that encourage people to evoke their curiosity and self-reflect — slowly moving humanity closer together, one colour at a time.
Sarah Zucker's GIFs have been viewed more than 7 billion times. She tells Nina Knaack why a GIF is like life, how her art makes the internet more human, and how they help her navigate our "terrifying transition."
Artificial intelligence looms over the creative industries, but The Cotton Modules show how the tech unlocks new opportunities for those willing to tinker. The pair sit down with Clovis McEvoy to discuss music technology, ethics, and creative sparks that come from working with an AI vocalist — and it's so much more than imitation.