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Work in Progress: Getting to know Agnes Martin

August 20th, 2010

Agnes Martin was another prolific and dedicated artist whose work will be featured alongside Eva Hesse and Betty Goodwin’s in the upcoming exhibition At Work. Although born in Saskatchewan in 1912, Martin spent most of her life in the US after moving there as a teenager. Her time studying, living and working in the American Southwest greatly influenced her as a person and as an artist.

A deeply spiritual artist influenced by the Eastern philosophical traditions of Taoism and Buddhism, Martin wanted her work to represent the sublime. For her, art was about happiness, a happiness that comes from the perception of universal beauty in the world. Believing that this beauty existed in the mind, rather than in the physical world of objects, Martin renounced explicit connections to the material world in her painting by using simple lines and grids, and limiting her use of colour. While her paintings can be seen to refer to the natural world in their titles (The Rose, The Islands) and in their forms (lines perhaps representing the horizon, grids the division of farmers fields) Martin did not wish to dictate the interpretation of her work, instead wanting the viewer to come to terms with their own impressions of and feelings about her paintings. In keeping with that thought, listen to her speak for herself in this great interview:

Kendra Ainsworth is a Masters student in Museum Studies at the University of Toronto, and an Interpretive Planning intern at the AGO.