Tate Modern x Compass Island – Interview

Tate Modern x Compass Island – Interview

In conversation with Compass Island

By Jodie Kharas

To coincide with the launch of the Agnes Martin exhibit at Tate Modern, Tate invited Amsterdam-based creative agency Compass Island to exercise their expertise in minimalist design as guest pinners to the Quiet Abstraction Pinterest board.
Here, co-founder Naia Salamah elaborates on Martin and minimalism.


How did Compass Island come about?

We are a creative duo: Folkert Hengeveld from Amsterdam and me, Naia Salamah, a Parisian now based in Amsterdam. Our partnership began on Pinterest. We were drawn to one another’s design and architecture boards. A year after our initial contact, I relocated from Paris to Amsterdam and we formed an agency. As we both have design backgrounds (graphic/set/industrial) and similar aesthetic preferences, we found working together to be an organic extension of our shared passions. Compass Island was born out of a love for design, creative freedom and exploration.

What do you do?

Compass Island is a multidisciplinary agency. We create identities and websites. We specialise in the design of graphics, interactive projects, interiors and editorial pages. As a creative consultancy, we are photographers, illustrators and curators.

Our job titles are Creative Explorers because we constantly experiment with new forms, media and content. We actively use all of the tools at our disposal with a 360º approach. No idea is off limits.

Your work tends to follow a minimalist aesthetic.
What is it about this style that appeals?

Our minimalist aesthetic arises from a desire to uncover the essential. Our process includes research that unravels an identity to its core, revealing the roots that make it thrive. We tackle two main challenges as we discover a brand’s identity: Communicating emotions rather than a particular style and bringing content and function to manifestation. Narrowing a brand’s needs and constraints is what gives the minimalistic aesthetic timeless appeal and staying power. The difficulty that minimalism implies is attractive to us in art, design, craftsmanship and even technology. However, we aren’t all about “less is more.” We are both avid collectors and serious magpies!

Has Agnes Martin’s oeuvre informed your work in any way?

Agnes Martin and artists like Pierre Soulages, Mark Rothko, Richard Serra, Ellsworth Kelly, Constantin Brancusi, Mies Van der Rohe, are an endless source of happiness, reflection and inspiration. They stimulate our senses and colour our lives. They accompany us along our journey. We strive to bring the influence of these greats into our work and lives.

Like Agnes Martin who travelled to find inspiration, we are seeking out new direction as we launch a mobile studio that grants us access to new territories and a new way of working.

What is it about her work that moves you?

The intangible.
Compass Island X Tate Modern. Agnes Martin, Untitled oil on gypsum board.

Agnes Martin. Untitled oil on gypsum board, 48” x 72” (121.9 cm x 182.9 cm)

Tell us about your Pinterest takeover for Tate.

The Quiet Abstraction board pays homage to Agnes Martin’s legacy. By first collecting a series of matching pictures, I selected images that felt closest to Martin’s paintings in terms of shape and colour. As Pinterest is purely a visual medium, I rely solely on my eyes and instinct when curating.

How do you think Pinterest allows us to discover and explore art differently?

Pinterest is a stimulating online space that allows for discovery of your own tastes and exploration of new art and design. I first learned about Agnes Martin on Pinterest while pinning other artists on my Abstract board.

Pinterest bridges art, design, culture and daily life. Tate x Compass Island is an example of how collaboration can spotlight a significant artist’s legacy and the links between art and modern life.

Original post published on the Tate Modern blog.

See the ‘Quiet Abstraction moodboard’ on Pinterest here.

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