A spiritual take on Martin’s work
The title of this canvas, Falling Blue, is like many Martin has chosen for other paintings over the years—Night Sea, The Desert, Leaf in the Wind—in its suggestion that what we are seeing is connected to some aspect of nature. For Martin, paintings like this one are meant to lead away from the natural world, into a more spiritual realm.
One might think of her works as signposts towards a perfect state of mind.
Curator Lawrence Rinder.
As much as they are works of fine art, they are equally tools or devices for meditation, and they are very much based on the tenets of Buddhism. Her approach to painting is to create a kind of a field for inspiration. Her reduction of the vocabulary of forms and imagery and colors to this very simple arrangement of horizontal lines, rectangles, a few simple colors, is a way of clearing her mind and the viewer’s mind of attachments to things on the natural world. Blue is a color that she’s returned to often in her career, symbolic, I think, of the emptiness of the sky, and therefore a metaphor for the Buddhist goal of an empty mind.
We’re in front of Agnes Martin’s Falling Blue from 1963. This painting done in oil and graphite on linen is 72 inches square. At a distance, it looks like a grayish blue mass with some variation and texture framed by a band of ocher on all four sides. Up close, it is revealed to be a series of very thin, lengthy, horizontal lines running from left to right and stacked top to bottom. The lines alternated in color between milk, chocolate, brown and cornflower blue. They have been painted by hand atop the ocher background paint, which shows through irregularly between the brown and blue. The lines are precise, but the human touch of the artists can be felt in the variations in thickness and straightness throughout. On top of these long, horizontal painted lines is a faint grid of graphite lines at wide intervals, creating a second structure beneath the ethereal quality of the paint.
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