“Of all the pitfalls in our paths and the tremendous delays and wanderings off the track, I want to say that they are not what they seem to be. I want to say that all that seems like fantastic mistakes are not mistakes, all that seems like error is not error; and it all has to be done. That which seems like a false step is the next step.”
I love Agnes Martin, her words, her paintings.
After a major exhibition in Tate Modern last year, there is a beautifully curated retrospective in Guggenheim New York running through January 11, 2017.
Agnes Martin lived alone for most of her adult life. Diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and guided by voices, she started painting relatively late but also stayed productive through her whole life, producing the last of her masterpieces only a couple of months before her death in 2004.
Staying true to the same motifs, subtle colors and geometric shapes she repeated endlessly, what she aimed to catch in her paintings was the ease of being: joy, beauty, happiness.
Like so many highly sensitive people, Martin seem to have found peace in her work. Something clear and innocent to focus on.
And that is what I most adore in her work, that sensitivity, and how much she manages to express with such a subtle visual language.
I read in an article that suggested that Martin’s paintings were the end result of an extreme effort and that their perfection was hard won.
And I get it, to work as hard as Martin did, starting over two or ten times if the painting was not accurately what she wanted, may seem like an extreme effort for someone who is not that particular about what they are willing to express.
But for someone who lives to create beauty, could it be that it is not so much as an extreme effort but something to focus on, something to keep them busy, something to live for?
What else would we really be here for than to focus on something that is simply wonderful and not the tiniest bit less. And more importantly, isn’t that what we all aim for anyway? Pure harmony, happiness, love – whatever you want to call it it is the same one thing.
“To progress in life you must give up the things you do not like. Give up doing the things that you do not like to do. You must find the things that you do like. The things that are acceptable to your mind.”
So simple and so well said, Agnes.
Do more of what you like to do. There are not many things, if any, more rewarding than that.
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
1071 5th Avenue
New York, NY 10128
Featured five images courtesy of Guggenheim.