Tuesday, July 07, 2015

I love the whole world

I went to see the Agnes Martin exhibition at the Tate Modern.

Sometimes when visiting art galleries, I actually prefer making quick sketches of the art rather than taking photographs.  (which were not allowed)
Above, Buds 1959  oil on canvas Titze collection
left:  Beach 1958 oil on canvas private collection
right: Untitled 1958 oil paint on canvas private collection

When I sketch something, I really look at it.
I name the colours used, which makes me think why did the artist choose these?
I consider the scale, and the shape of the work.
The subtle changes that are in Agnes Martin's work are not evident if we just glance at them.
It's necessary to slow down and notice the variations of line and the multiple relationships between them.
Left: Untitled 1957 oil paint and graphite on canvas
Right: Heather 1958

Most of Agnes Martin's pieces are untitled, but sometimes not.
The list below are some of the titles that are in the Tate exhibit (not sketched by moi):

Friendship 1963  gold leaf and gesso on canvas
The Islands 1961  oil paint and graphite on canvas
The Book 1951  oil paint and paper on canvas
Dominoes 1960 oil paint and paper on canvas
Islands no. 4 1961  oil paint on canvas
The Heavenly Race 1959  oil paint on canvas
The Garden 1958  oil paint and found objects on wood
Grass 1967  acrylic and graphite on canvas
Adventure 1967  acrylic and graphite on canvas
White Stone 1965  oil and graphite on canvas
Morning 1965  acrylic and graphite on canvas
The Rose 1965  acrylic and graphite on canvas
The Tree 1964  oil paint and pencil on canvas
Happy Holiday 1999  acrylic and graphite on canvas
Left above: Untitled 1959 oil and ink on linen
Left below: Untitled 1960 oil on linen
Right:   Untitled #5 1994  acrylic and graphite

In 1967 she abandoned painting for 5 years and traveled around Canada and the U.S. in a pick up truck and a camper van.

In 1973 she made a portfolio of 30 screen prints entitled On a Clear Day.
Left: Untitled #10 1965  acrylic and graphite
Right:  I Love The Whole World  2000  acrylic and graphite on canvas

In 1974 she painted square paintings,  all sized the same.  (72 by 72 inches)
These were pastels (pale blue, pink, white) with vertical and horizontal stripes, thick, thin, narrow, wide.
In 1977 she made grey paintings, still 72 x 72
In 1979 she made a series of twelve white paintings entitled The Islands.  She stipulated that they should always be shown together.  These are in the permanent collection of the Whitney in New York, on loan to the Tate for this exhibition.  I wrote about them in 2010 when they were at the Art Gallery of Ontario.  (here)
Above left:  Sunlight 1962
Below left: Song 1962  ink and watercolour on canvas
Right:  Horizons  1960  oil on canvas

She reduced the size of her paintings to 60 x 60 when she got older.  Her palette included brighter and darker colours after 2000.
2001 - Gratitude  (lemon yellow, willow green, white and orange
2002 - Untitled  (sky blue with yellow and pale mauve)
2002 - Untitled (variety of greys)
2003 -  The Sea  (black with white lines)
2003 - Homage to Life  (silver grey with black shape in the middle)
2003 - Untitled (large black triangles with lime green peaks, pale grey ground)
2004 - Untitled  (lemon yellow, willow green)
2004 - Untitled (very painterly grey wash with white horizontal stripes)

She continued to paint through 2004, the year she died at age 92.
A large room was full of her drawings.
Above left:  Summer 1964 watercolour, ink, gouache (top) and untitled 1978 watercolour,ink,
Above right:  Her last drawing 2004 ink on paper, in private collection

Agnes Martin was a painter with a long life who painted every single day.  She destroyed those that didn't work with a knife.  Then she would repaint them.
"We have a tremendous range of abstract feelings but we don't pay any attention to them."  Agnes Martin


  1. I am beginning to prefer drawings to photos after all these years. they contain so much more than just looking.

  2. AAAhhhhhh, Agnes. Ah, the Tate. Ah, sketching memories. I remember visiting Taos while Agnes was still alive and working. I must have been near her studio because I recall seeing a reserved parking space with her name on it. I can't describe the feeling I had standing so close to where she had been. The first time I visited Georgia O'Keefe's studio and home in Abiquiu, the guides restricted photographs and even 'sketching' ….which sent me to a very quiet place of BEing there. So much work, and waves of validation that we are on the right path. As always, Thank You Judy. You always seem to condense so much feeling into your blog posts.

  3. You've put your finger on it Judy..the act of drawing requires looking and deep seeing. I remember a blissful hour at Te Papa museum in Wellington NZ, making detailed drawings with colour notes of Colin McCahon's "northland" panels. And then more satisfying time in a cafe somewhere as I filled in the colours with watercolour. Still my most treasured souvenir from that wandering.

  4. this arrives as a bolt from the blue .. i have just seen Agnes Martin's work in the Toowoomba Regional Gallery here in Queensland!
    i did not know it was on. i just wandered in ... in fact on my birthday and i did consider it a gift from the universe when i went inside! the curator joined me in the silent and empty room for a long conversation about Agnes, her all time favourite artist.
    the work was exhibited as part of 'Objects and Energies'a joint exhibition with Joyce Hinterding AUS , Linda Matalon USA and Agnes Martin. http://artguide.com.au/articles-page/show/objects-and-energies/
    it will tour to other galleries in Australia.
    as i read this, the exhibition catalogue sits beside my left hand, some images of her work within. synchronicity ....
    thank you.

  5. Two Martins I admire. Will have to find their work when I next go East. Unless, of course, one of them comes West...

  6. In a biography of Agnes Martin - can't remember which - it said that as she got very old she was faced with the dilemma of whether to change the size of her canvas, as she could no longer move the big ones around, or to employ and assistant, who would intrude into her solitude. A tough choice. She decided to stop painting.

  7. Hi Margaret

    There is a video in the Tate exhibition that features Agnes Martin's friend and dealer at Pace, Arne Glimcher. He also wrote an excellent book about her. In the video he speaks about her last request - it was to destroy two of the three paintings she had finished that week. He did.
    So - she kept painting until she died. Another thing I love to know about her.
    Here's another link to Arne and Agnes's relationship. x


  8. I visited the Tate last fall and oh my goodness, how I would've loved to pause a bit and sketch. But alas, I shall just stroll and sketch vicariously and see the exhibit again through your eyes.


Thank you for taking the time to connect. Much appreciated.xx