The inner thoughts of Agnes Martin
“Beauty”-Kevin Dooley

“…Martin is not trying to paint a tree. She is painting the innocence of a tree. She’s not trying to paint a rose, but the beauty of a rose”(The Anthropocene Reviewed). I find this to be one of the most interesting concepts talked about in this podcast. How does one paint the essence of an abstract idea? Beauty, innocence, etc. are all just social constructs that we humans created. It boggles my mind how someone would be able to depict them. I would love to try to understand this concept and perceive the ideas that Agnes Martin was.

Tackling this idea in a more straightforward fashion, drawing the essence of a conceptual belief should be theoretically impossible. Not everybody has the same view of what “beauty” or “innocence” are. These can be easily represented with symbols used throughout our cultures such as how innocence is often represented by a baby lamb or the color white… but these are just symbols, not the actual nature of the idea. The essence of an idea I would say is the true feeling you get from perceiving the object or idea. The processes that go on in our brain when we see a beautiful rose is the essence of beauty…or that’s how I see it.

(Fritz Goro/Life Picture Collection/Getty Images)

“I paint with my back to the world,” she[Agnes Martin] declared, and what she wanted to catch in her rigorous nets was not material existence, the Earth and its myriad forms, but rather the abstract glories of being: joy, beauty, innocence; happiness itself”(Olivia Laing).

Agnes Martin would be able to accomplish this feat by using her experience and all the hardships she has faced in her life to come close to conceiving these ideas on a canvas. She would endure a lot of mental trauma in her life which would go unfixed for years and affect her mental health, but this was what led her down the path to be able to paint such non-realistic concepts. Just like the Renaissance was able to switch up the standards of art to something new and unique that was looked at as the epitome of perfection back in history, one can argue that Agnes is doing the same thing with her own form of art. She spent her whole life dedicating herself to finding out the true meaning of her life. This wild thought process of hers would also lead her to the middle of a desert, but it is the experience she receives that allows her to even grasp the concept of drawing the essence of ideas that we humans create ourselves.

Agnes Martin was known to paint the same things over and over but in different variations. Her more famous paintings were basic lines going across each other and the use of different colors was there to all tie everything together. The colors could all be the representation of what ideas were going through Agnes’ mind while she drew her masterpieces. She was drawing what she felt…the essence of her ideas. This is my theory on how she is able to tackle her way of drawing.