Gothic Minimalism: An Oxymoron?

A Gothic church converted into a modern home with minimalist furnishings

“Minimalism” has been a huge buzzword as of late, and is poised to become one of the biggest trends of 2015. I have to admit, I find myself increasingly attracted to the idea of minimalism; not because of the thousands of instagram pictures of succulents (you know what I’m talking about), not because of the monochrome ensembles popping up on the runway or the streets. I’m attracted to it because I like the idea of not having as much stuff as I do now. I like the idea of not spending time and money on material things that just serve to clutter up my living space. And ultimately, I believe we all need to completely rethink our consumption habits.

But…

I also love Gothicism.

Minimalism means clean, straight lines. It’s stripped down and simple. In the Gothic aesthetic, there have never been any straight lines– ever! The very earliest uses of the term “Gothic” were in reference to flamboyant cathedrals with dramatic arches, flying buttresses, and gargoyles. The Gothic has always been about excess and complexity – exactly the opposite of what minimalism’s about.

Is there any way the two can be reconciled? Since “Goth” has also become more of a “trend” recently, I have a feeling we may be seeing the two concepts converge more. I can’t really imagine what this will look like, since the inclusion of complex Gothic elements would pretty much make the minimalist thing, well, not minimalist anymore… but the closest thing I can think of is the “occult” look. This has also become really popular over the last several years. The look can be achieved with clean, straight lines, monochome black, simple geometric symbols– all falling under the realm of minimalism. But the look also implies mystery, secret rituals, supernaturalism, and a fascination with death– all reminiscent of the Gothic.

Typical looks from clothing line OVATE

So what do you think? Will Mimimalist Goth/Gothic Minimalism become a thing? Is it already a thing in the form of Occult style? What about Health Goth (haha)?

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Screen shot 2015-03-20 at 8.08.02 PM

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12 thoughts on “Gothic Minimalism: An Oxymoron?

  1. Would very much consider myself a minimalist goth! so Voting for not an Oxymoron…

    Imagine we have gothness increasing on an X axis and flamboyance/complexity going up (I was going to say ‘in another dimension’ – but you’d all think I was smoking something). We’d certainly expect to find more going on to the upper right (gargoyles, thunder, big hair and eyeliner) but that doesn’t mean the bottom right is deserted. Be harder to find minimalist goth too! I generally rant about Amenra with much worse excuses, so here I go: For the uninitiated Amenra are a sludge metal band (for the even more uninitiated that means any riff you hear emerging after 5m of intro vaguarities will be the only riff you’ll hear for the further 10m of the track). They’ve got a pervasive melancholy (the death of the vocalists father being a significant event in the direction of the music) but are certainly not Goth, it’s much more jeans and t-shirt than hair dye and more sincerity than fantasy. But is it gothic? I’m hoping ‘-ic’ pulls a few strings with the broader historical context (maybe this site would just call it tasteful?) rather than the goth scene of the past 35 years. Half their gigs are in churches… I think that says enough.

    Samsara and death…
    So one theme I cannot imagine Goth surviving without is death (I’d be interested to hear of anything felt to be gothic which doesn’t allude to this strongly). Perhaps death is all that’s left when we’re stripped of our flamboyance anyway. And if we’re talking about death and minimalism then we might even see the gothic and Buddhism sharing similar territory. Buddhism teaches a withdrawal of attachment to things, in particular the idea of ‘self’, and Buddhist meditation goes so far as to be uninterrupted by thought. Can’t be much more minimalist than that! The state of samsara (which has been described as ‘trance of sorrow’) occurs in recognising the transience of things, whilst also clinging to them. To confront this ‘attachment’ there are even practices which involve spending a night in a graveyard contemplating the inevitable decay of one’s body… nothing like telling life like it is. I guess Buddhists must look at the gothic fascination like someone ripping off scabs… but maybe it’s just another way to learn the same thing, a compulsion to play with ideas that might threaten the meaningfulness of life – but also force us to upgrade our evaluation of things.
    So how about that then – gothic as the transition from flamboyance to minimalism, from life to death. It needs it’s eerie silence as much as it’s dark and stormy night.

    If you like this vein say hello to my site! (just excuse the spiteful language – I’m trying to see life how it is…)

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    • Wow, I really enjoyed reading through your comment (several times) — you just took the theme of the post and cranked it up quite a few intellectual levels! Really interesting that you bring up Buddhism– although I’ve thought of death in the context of Buddhism before, I haven’t really connected the Gothic to Buddhism. It makes a lot of sense though, especially when talking about minimalism. I’d like to think more on what the Gothic is at its core, stripped of its flamboyance, as you say. How much of that can you strip away and still have Gothicism? What is “sacred” to the Gothic, in this sense? I think “death” at the core of the Gothic makes a lot of intuitive sense… but I keep thinking back to one of my professors arguing that it is “excess” that really defines the Gothic (at least as an aesthetic in architecture, literature, etc.), so I really don’t know… Hm, lots to think about. I’ll definitely check out your site!

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  2. I think that minimal goth IS a thing. Look at Gareth Pugh: I have a personal idea of a new goth, modern and minimalistic. I think that some designers such as Pugh and in some ways Demeleumeester are a new way of goth: the “normal” goth shows its self in all the details, all the lines of a dress; the new minimal goth in more concentrated in the concept and it shows it in a less dire ct way. It so complicated to explane this theory in words, but I think that Gareth Pugh is the perfect example of what I’m saying.

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  3. Very flattered to have been re-read ! (usually only happens when someone’s struggling with my handwriting). Certainly not qualified to continue any conversation in a Gareth Pugh direction, but in terms of visual art Casper David Friedrich’s an obvious admirer of spindly gothic arches, yet his Monk by the Sea was pretty seminal to the minimalist aesthetic.
    Not qualified to talk about the architectural use of the gothic either – and this seems more relevant to contemporary ideas than visigoths (if my Asterix books are to be trusted). I can imagine though that struggling to present excess one eventually ends up with the infinite… which would look just as much like oblivion to someone who’d not been following the story! Crowley (just to reel in a completely different dodgy limb of ‘goth’) certainly commented on different spiritual paths making the mind like a fire, or still as a ripple-less-lake – and both leading to the same thing. For a less demonified equivalent there are also Tibetan Buddhist visualisations (and intense thangka paintings) that seem designed to get so complicated the brain throws a switch.

    Really pounding your gothic décor with all kinds of weirdness – I’m sorry!
    (If you’ve looked at the site you’ve had to cope with Africa-Gothic too…. I wonder what Le Carre’s Constant Gardener would need to make it a Goth film?)

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  4. Pingback: Gothic Minimalism: Your Thoughts | Tastefully Gothic

  5. I’m horrendously late to this post, even though I’ve read it more than a handful of times (which by the way, thank you for the lovely blog post). I’m not a spokesperson on this matter, but I’ve been pretty observant on this matter… and I think it reverts back to that never-ending question of “what is goth?”… there is, of course, the classic term, but what we’re referring to is more modern, transforming “gothic” into a more subjective entity. Anyway, no point in over-analyzing it, as anything could have Gothic attributes, right? My own philosophy would be more perceptive: “what does goth mean to you?”, because whether this be a choice of fashion, lifestyle or aesthetic – it still has a gravitational pulse on the goth community, sprouting so many different types under the umbrella term that is goth, which I believe minimalist goth, as virtually unknown as it is, rightfully deserves its own place.

    A little bit about my experience: Like many, I was raised under a roof of excess. Naturally, cluttered spaces often made me feel uncomfortable, which was a very small reason interconnected with hundreds of other reasons as to why I “flew the coop” prematurely. This enforced a lifestyle of necessity, to which I found to be more comfortable and suitable anyway. Like the first comment suggested, a Buddhist or even Taoist philosophy strikes a cord with some, (the less desires one has, the more enlightened you’ll be), which most refer to the coined term of minimalism, which is an umbrella term of its own (hippies can be minimalists, successfully wealthy CEOs can be minimalists, etc.). On the opposite end of the spectrum, I also grew up with a natural fascination of dark oddities. I’ve always found genuine enjoyment out of finding beauty in what the norm would consider to be grotesque, as well as displaying a somewhat morbid sense of humor.

    Just as the traditional goth subculture noticed off-shoot trends, the minimalist goth is humiliated by versions that adopt the fashion or title, but ignores the lifestyle. A lot of which you could consider as “hipster goth” or “nugoth”, or “street goth” or “ninjagoth”, or even “grunge goth” and so on. To me? I don’t take it nearly as seriously as most goth subculture tends to do, but if I were to slap a label on myself, it would be a minimalist goth, as I have lived a minimalist lifestyle and philosophy for 11 years now, just through a gothic lens – even though many remain ignorant to its existence, or at least how I would define it. As I grew older, fashion became more simplistic self-expression, and it became less about experimenting with wild makeup designs and band shirts, and more about attracting less attention to myself, while still indulging in the macabre.

    (I apologize for the long rant. I’ve given thought about creating my own blog on the subject, but as I’ve stated, I’m not even sure how many people would acknowledge it. This is just my two cents on the matter.)

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