Monday, March 23, 2015

Sacred Geometry & Agnes Martin

Last week I substitute taught a class on minimalism for a friend of mine at Maine College of Art and I couldn't be more grateful, as without her, I never would have stumbled across Agnes Martin's Grid Paintings.  In a Charles Darwent article in the July, August issue of Modern Painters, Darwent says, "the artisanal slowness of Martin's paintings - each canvas stretched and gessoed by the artist herself, its gridded lines worked out mathematically in her head and then drawn freehand onto the surface with a short ruler - calls for us to see them slowly."

It was on a crazy morning that I reviewed this material for Angela's class.  My wife was in need of a greasy breakfast and my son was not having it.  As Austin lost his kit and kaboodle, my dreams of understanding the nuances of a class on minimalism slipped away into an endless void, seemingly never to be found again.  But as Austin drifted off to sleep in the car and little wife ran into a bagel shop for a second go round at breakfast, I settled in to an article about a woman who worked during the fury that was the American Abstract Expressionist movement; a movement characterized by the testicular forces of Pollock and Rothko, a movement which could overshadow someone with something quiet to say.  I thought it sort of like trying to think with an infant screaming into your ear. While reading about her grid paintings I began to see the similarities between the origin of her quiet lines drawn with a small ruler, and my bic pen lines drawn with my square.  The measure is incredibly important, but really not important at all.  The patterns require a geometry, but where they fall apart oft becomes the most interesting part of the piece.  

A good friend visited me today in studio and showed me a video on sacred geometry and the number 9.  It is incredible how ordered the entire world is on a physical and theoretical level.  Still, when we consider our social interactions, cultural differences and general racial and caste warfare the order falls apart.  The micro view begets The Lord of the Flies while the macro view looks more like Huxley's Brave New World.  We are wired for disorder but built on geometry.  Therein lies some of the meaning that I've been seeking for my sudden compulsion to paint patterns in the last year and a half.  That's not all that I realized today, however.  As I was chatting with Melissa, it dawned on me, that when I was creating animal characters I was responding to people that I would see out and about town, combining features and personality traits, finding patterns within our human experience.  When I stopped working as much with the characters, I commenced creating patterns.  I began my own hermetic process, a holy endeavor, like a monk, holed away in my studio seeking a holy equation, but accepting that life is more about flaws and variances than exactitude.  That is my truth for today and will stand until a newer, shinier truth takes its place.

Time to head to bed with a sketchbook, my journal, and a book of Von Humboldt essays.

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