Agnes Martin

Agnes Martin was one of America’s foremost abstract painters, with a career that spanned nearly five decades. Her earliest works from the 1960s are characterised by large, grid-based compositions.

Later, Martin reduced the scale of her square canvases and shifted her work to use bands of ethereal colour. These works move between a preoccupation with ordered geometry and the irregularity created by hand-drawn pencil lines. Martin viewed this contrast between the regularity of geometry and deliberate inconsistency of the artist's hand as analogous to the human condition.

Although her work is about perfection, she explained, ‘the paintings are very far from perfect – completely removed in fact – even as we ourselves are’ (quoted in Schwarz 1991, p.15). The six paintings from Martin’s later career held in the ARTIST ROOMS collection exemplify her exquisite handling of paint. The delicate colours appear to project beyond the picture plane. While her early paintings were often untitled, Happy Holiday 1999 and Faraway Love 1999 come from a sequence of paintings from the late 1990s in which the artist used titles to evoke states of euphoria, contentment and memories of past happiness.

Agnes Martin, Happy Holiday 1999

‘I hope I have made it clear that the work is about perfection as we are aware of it in our minds but that the paintings are very far from being perfect – completely removed in fact – even as we ourselves are.’ Agnes Martin (quoted in Schwarz 1991, p.15.)

Dieter Schwarz (ed.), Agnes Martin: Writings/Schriften, Winterthur 1991.