Sunday, August 31, 2008

Breathing Space

"Not to know, but to go on." -- Agnes Martin

I find an opening up to life, to chance, to miracles when I paint. I breathe, and with each breath, a brushstroke. This practice lets me experience the sublime in the simple repetitive task of weaving the surface of a painting. I don't know where each brushstroke will take me, as we don't know what the next moment will hold for each of us. But I continue on, the challenge is worthy, it is my life, my breath. Eventually the imagery appears, a certain glow, a stunning texture, a color mixture of particular delicacy emerges.

An issue of great importance to me in my work is containment. It is very important to me that the composition is totally self-contained upon the canvas. I achieve this by surrounding the image and the edges of the canvas with a unifying color, to which the whole painting is keyed. This holds the boundaries of the painting intact, emphasizing its existence as a singular object. At the same time, the painting appears to bloom outward from its confined edges. This convergence of two opposing characteristics -- one a self-contained vessel of color and light, the other a bridge to the infinite and endless expansiveness -- is like a breath: inward then outward.

In her book, The Infinite Line, Brioney Fer discusses these two aspects of Agnes Martin's work. Martin's early pencil grids were "self-contained things, the drawings come to embrace the infinite but resist becoming totalities." The surface of her work "invites a contemplative gaze," Fer asserts, "bolting the viewer to it, as if the work of the work were to open on to an immaterial and meditative space. Agnes Martin liked to think that it could, that the simplest of means could invite the possibility of revelation. She used various words to describe the experience of boundlessness that art could give: 'infinity', 'joy', 'bliss', 'the sublime'....Yet what could be more material than her concern with the medium, her laborious weaving of surface?....Her drawing would not be concerned with the fragment but with completeness, a sense of completeness she suggested by surrounding her grids with a border..." This sense of combining the material with the immaterial, reality with infinity, mapping the "spaciousness of spirit" within the fugitive differences of the hand-drawn grid, inspires me to my own project, to an inner vision of the infinite through the vehicle of repetition.

(The above quotes are taken from The Infinite Line by Brioney Fer, pages 47-53.)


Dianne McNaughton said...

Dear Diane,
I have read your blog with great interest. I enjoyed your description of how your paintings evolve. I paint using my intuition, initially in an abstract manner, but images always appear in my paintings stirring deeply subconscious feelings. love Dianne

Anonymous said...

I studied Agnes Martin's work when I was at art school studying art history. Her work is truly sublime and takes you 'somewhere else'. I'm following your blog now as it is such a coincidence as my work has so many parellels with your thoughts on painting.