Teak. Sleek. Minimalist. Monochromatic. What aesthetic comes to mind? (Need a hint? Think meatballs.)

Yes! You got it in one. Scandinavian.

Collage of Scandinavian art

Is it something to do with their uncluttered natural landscapes, all rocky fjords, sea/sky interfaces, mountains, and ice?

Collage of Icelandic landscapes


Now consider the decor on offer elsewhere. Intricate. Detailed. Ornate. Colourful. Delicate.

Collage of Thai art

Is the aesthetic of the art found in a small Thai restaurant in an unremarkable Ottawa strip mall linked to the riotous plant growth, the insanely beautiful and varied birds of the jungles of Thailand?


Do these two decors — Scandinavian and Thai — hold down opposite ends of the spectrum? Probably not — there are likely more severe and more ornate aesthetics in the human range — but at least they illustrate the point. As humans, we seem to agree on the value of embellishing our surroundings, but dramatically fail to agree on what that means.

That’s OK. It turns out there are many ways to be humanely human, but all of them come back to this:

Find beauty in the world,
and add beauty to it.


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8 Responses to Scandithaivian

  1. Tom Watson says:

    Wow! What unusual pieces of artful beauty.

  2. Jim Taylor says:

    Stunning contrasts. And you may be right in linking the Thai examples to the “riotous” growth of tropical jungles. A missionary in Africa once told me that the difference between Scandinavian architecture and tropical architecture was the sky. Northern architects wanted to create something striking that would stand out against grey skies; tropical architects designed buildings that would hunker down under burning skies. Dubai and Nairobi would suggest that perhaps he wasn’t totally right.

    Jim T

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Jim T – I suspect there is an academic discipline that looks at the correlations between environment and culture, but I don’t know what it is or anything about it. That leaves me free to speculate irresponsibly. Dubai’s architecture is amazing – I didn’t have any mental image for Nairobi before checking, so thanks!

  3. I am sure the Vikings produced some beautifully intricate jewellery and decorations on armor and arms, doorways, ships’ figureheads, and other objects. Considering the amount of energy they had to expend to survive the elements, perhaps that legacy is not so shabby?

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Laurna – That’s likely true – maybe the minimalist aesthetic is a modern thing.

  4. barbara carlson says:

    If life (as in your turnip) is hard to stop, then embellishment and making art is just as virulent. The urge to “art” is life itself for some, alas, beaten out of many at about age 8.
    “What’s THAT supposed to be?” is a crime against man’s artful nature.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Barbara – It’s the old story. The professor asks a group of university students, “How many of you could draw when you were 5?” All the hands go up. “And how many can draw now?” Almost no hands. “So what happened between then and now?” We learned to stop claiming things that others said we weren’t good at. That’d what happened.

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