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"style" Tag

Dutch style aquarium – Criteria of beauty

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Step 0 | Question: What is beauty?


What is beauty? How can it be defined?

It would be obscure question which does not have a clear answer. A topic in my first art theory class in the semester was just about this. The first chapter in Cynthia Freeland’s book, Art Theory: A Very Short Introduction was used there and it also reffered to aesthetic judgement of Kant. It is never simple subject for me since there would be enormous space to argue.

But a couple months later, I happened to think what is called “style” might have its own clear answer.

This idea made me feel a little bit better.


Step 1 | Dutch style aquarium has appeared as unknown territory


Work by Takashi Amano, the founder of the style “Nature aquarium”
When I got an assignment of exploring unknown territory for design, I never thought about such thing. As I need to meet a professional inspiring me to go in his/her context, I was simply looking for someone who I can reach to in the present Netherlands. In my mind, a specific genre of aquarium, Dutch style aquarium, came earlier than an idea of who to choose.

It is because making an aquarium was my hobby which I got interested in a few years ago in Japan. This aquarium is specifically called “Nature aquarium” in which you can create an “aquascape” resembling nature landscape by putting growing aquatic plants, stones, wood and little creatures like tropical fishes or shrimps in your tank.

Unfortunately I had to leave mine there when I moved to Amsterdam but I still also had a little expectation that I can see a different type of aquarium. I had already heard the word of “Dutch style aquarium” even in Japan. Now is it time to explore it here, in the Netherlands?


Step 2 | The Answer from Dutch style aquarium


A work from category of Dutch aquascape in AGA contest 2015
There are two kinds of major styles of aquascaping. One is called Nature aquarium in which I had been interested since before, and the other is called Dutch style aquarium, the oldest style becoming popular during the 1930’s in the Netherlands. The former has become the global mainstream since being established in Japan in early 1990’s, but actually it came after the latter.

To know more about Dutch style I tried to meet one of judges for a category of Dutch aquascape in an international aquascaping contest. Unfortunately it was not realized. Instead, I still could get a lot of information on the internet.

Though its most simple feature to say would be that it does not suggest a use of hardscape material like stones or wood, the most interesting finding for me was its very detailed rules. It is very much specific.

It requires;
- well grown and defined grouping plants
- a small space between the groups
- clearly different height between the groups
- more than 3 plant species per foot (foreground / middle / background)
- terracing to convey depth
- rich contrasts (made by color variation, leaf height, texture)
- a focal point (emphasized by a red or large plant / by the effective use of the “Rule of Thirds” / only one focal point in tanks 36” or less)
- more than 70% of the floor planted
- imaginary streets / pathways of plant

You would also find that contest’s judgments are always given from a objective viewpoint of how each works fulfills the criteria like above or not.

In my mind, these were immediately connected to the question, how aesthetics can be judged, which was for the theory discussion before. If it would be the guidelines of aesthetic, could it be applied to even other things?

Then, I decided to try to make “beautiful” compositions by appropriating these criteria for totally different things.


Step 3 | Then, what can the criteria fit?


The first cutout with images from “SimCity” app

It was not easy to choose the objects for the composition.

I think I was too much caught by an idea of choosing a specific motif which needs arrangements as well as aquascapes do. What came in my mind was, for example, still life painting, architectures or city planning, and then I actually tried to make some 3D collages with these motives.

After some struggles, however, my idea eventually reached to autonomous graphic compositions without any motif. It would be interesting to use things without any restriction than to focus on a specific objects, since it has more expandability. What is more, I could not imagine the result and it simply made me curious.

How much universal could these criteria become? I wanted to make some studies to examine it.


Step 4 | Interpretation of aquascape language


To go on this experiment, I deliberately applied some points below choosing from many to my practices.

- Contrast by colors
the use of color highlights
black and white, green and red, positive and negative…

- Contrast by textures
fluffy, flat, glossy, mat…
photo prints showing deferent textures

- Contrast by shapes
curvy and strait, circles and angles
same shapes but in different size and height

- Focal point
A focal point provided by the use of above techniques
Application of the rule of thirds

- Imaginary pathways
Emphasis of the perspective


In addition to these rules, I found that aquariums are something in-between 3D and 2D. I mean it is actually three dimensional but its layouts are always considered from a fixed viewpoint. Traditionally tanks show only one front side and the others are totally covered. Also, photography always has an important role to show it. I put a camera based on which I started each layouts.


Step 5 | A result

Get the Flash Player to see this player.

During the experiment I’ve already found that the goal of this project would not be to make an finished image but to try a lot of compositions as studies. What kind of results can I get from it? Is it “beautiful”? These kinds of things are not completed in short time but would be just a starting point of pursuits.

Does it still continue?



Monday, November 14, 2011

– Look at me, don’t look at me.

This was a description given by Patti Smith, when being asked about her style in an interview. The sentence caught my attention because of its simple descriptiveness of the rebel attitude. But this text is not about the musician and poet Patti Smith, but about the clothes she often wears. Made by her close and old friend Ann Demeulemeester, whose work I’ve tried to approached.

Ann Demeulemeester and Patty Smith. Two successful stories, still going on.
It seams they function like each others muses and fuel each other with creative energy. They have collaborated in some of Ann’s collections. She seems like the perfect model for Demeulemeesters design. She expresses individuality and androgynity and that is two important themes in Demeulemeesters work.

Ann Demeulemeester
B.1951 in Belgium
Lives in Antwerp (in Belgium’s only le Corbusier house [x])
Attended the Royal academy of fine arts, Belgium 1978-1981
One member of the notable fashion group “The Antwerp 6″ [x]
Set up her fashion house in -87.
In 2009 her business generated sales of about 40 million dollars.
Only wears her own design.


Long term friendship, long stabile career and a loyal crowd who follows her.
Going through the history of her collections, from 1987-2011, You see that she has a single solid vision. Her outspoken critical approach to trends, hype and celebrity dressing is probably a reason to her popularity. She explains the success to old-fashioned hard work. Inspired by her father.

The Crow, Edward Scissorhands, leather, latex, horse hair and feathers…
My First impression was from the collection of 2011.

I wouldn’t wear it.

Fashion for older women. Women Interested in art, who use to be punks in the 80′s. All black… Lacing, high booths, leather gloves, fetish, goth, pale, thin models.
In interviews she says she hates to be labelled as gothic.
I like dark, but more sober. I could do without the leather laces…


Former industries, now galleries-area in Berlin.
I walked through a open door. Surprised to find a clothing store there [x], and even more surprised that they represented Ann Demeulemeester.
They didn’t greet me, three busy quiet guys dressed in black. everything was black. I was a non-potential buyer, and felt a bit uncomfortable spending too much time in there. I wanted to take a picture but wasn’t allowed. Couldn’t understand why, didn’t ask why. The place felt like a secret club rather then a public place.

Second store visit in Amsterdam, at Van Ravenstein [x]. (This time with my own photographer). White clean facade. classy, neat store. A bit nervous to feel like the non-potential-buyer again. The store was not very big but had three assistants; one young and two elderly women. I look around I order to recognize something from Demeulemeester, but it seems that this store was selling a more “simple” selection out of the collection. One of the assistants showed me, and I picked out some things that felt the most characteristic.
Another costumer was giving me a quick but evaluating look, from head to toes.
With carefulness I tried on a black shirt with white birds claws-print, and a thin, black cardigan with an unusual cutting. I read the clothes with my pre-impressions of a mood composed by websites, music, models, etc. but anyhow, I got cheesy heavy metal associations from the shirt… The cardigan was OK. Comfortable, and I like that it had a hood. It was hanging down in a nice way. I felt some eyes in my neck and one of the assistants asked me if it’s a good size. I gave the answer, yes yes it’s good, even though it was a bit too small.

I asked the assistant if she could describe the design from Demeulemeester. She was thinking for a while, and the answered with a very low and soft voice: androgynous… rocky… simple… women. She couldn’t say who the customers were. Demeulemeester herself says her clients is not fashion victims, but individualists that chooses what he or she wants.


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