“I do not paint scientific discoveries or philosophies. Art is not ethical, moral, or even rational and not automatic. I paint aesthetic analogies belonging and sharing with everything. I paint to make friends and I hope I will have as many as Mozart.” Agnes Martin
I’m not sure I agree wholeheartedly with the statement above, but I enjoy its strident confidence. Agnes Martin is well known for bringing a certain lyricism to minimalism in the 1960s. As a young art student, at a time when I didn’t have a taste for minimalism, quite, Martin’s sense of order along with a whispery variability caught my attention. Her ability to humanize the grid–a tool that is, at base, mechanistic–makes her a direct antecedent to two contemporary artists that I’ve been admiring lately: Ellen Lesperance and Louise Despont.
Lesperance not only uses the grid (as shown above in a detail), but she embodies Martin’s assertion that the solitary artist-in-studio is actually engaging in a very social act. Her process, which has been described fully in other places, including her own essays, redraws the sweaters worn by significant female activists as knitting patterns, resulting in stunning abstractions with compelling heritage. She does, in fact, re-knit some of the sweaters as well, and in this process seems to draw on a sacramental trust in the power of making. The process of materially revisiting parts of an event whose repercussions (justice, awareness, etc.) are invisible (but just as real as clothing) revives the passion of the women involved in the demonstrations.
Louise Despont also seems to be interested in bridging metaphysical gaps.
“I have a particular interest in cosmologies– esoteric as well as metaphysical,” Louise Despont says in an article from Modern Painters (Feb. 2010). The article also lists some of her resources and influences: “In addition to books on Greek mythology and Egyptian art, her apartment is filled with the writings of the 19th century Swedish theologian and mystic Emanuel Swedenborg and the Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner, whose 1904 How to Know Higher Worlds provides her current inspiration, with its meditations on the similarities and differences among animal, mineral and plant forms.” The physical result of these influences puts me in mind of the astounding pieces by troubled visionary Adolf Wölfli.
In any case, as I continue to dig deeper into my material of choice as an artist, I’m inspired by luminous women like these three.