Agnes Martin


Canadian-born American Abstract Painter

Author Quotes

Doing what you were born to do ? That's the way to be happy.

It is commonly thought that everything that is can be put into words.

The newest trend and the art scene are unnecessary distractions for a serious artist. He will much more rewarded responding to art of all times and places ? not as art history but considering each piece and its value to him. You can't think, ?My life is more important than the work?, and get the work. You have to think the work is paramount in your life. An artist's life is adventurous: one new thing after another.

You can't make a perfect painting. We can see perfection in our minds. But we can't make a perfect painting.

Fulfill your potential. That's the way to happiness.

It is quite commonly thought that the intellect is responsible for everything that is made and done. It is commonly thought that everything that is can be put into words. But there is a wide range of emotional response that we make that cannot be put into words. We are so used to making these emotional responses that we are not consciously aware of them until they are represented in artwork.

The way of the artist is an entirely different way. It is a way of surrender. He must surrender to his own mind. When you look in your mind you find it covered with a lot of rubbishy thoughts. You have to penetrate these and hear what your mind is telling you to do. Such work is original work. All other work made from ideas is not inspired and is not artwork. Artwork is responded to with happy emotions. Work about ideas is responded to with other ideas. There is so much written about art that it is mistaken for an intellectual pursuit.

You sort of underestimate the human being when you say that every least thing that is an abstract experience is spiritual. It isn't. It's just your real self. You can be capable of fantastic abstract experiences, right in this life.

Happiness is being on the beam with life - to feel the pull of life.

It would be an endless battle if it were all up to ego because it does not destroy and is not destroyed by itself. It is like a wave it makes itself up, it rushes forward getting nowhere really it crashes, withdraws and makes itself up again pulls itself together with pride towers with pride rushes forward into imaginary conquest crashes in frustration withdraws with remorse and repentance pulls itself together with new resolution.

The worst thing you can think about when you?re working is yourself.

I don?t believe in influence. I think that in order to be an artist, you have to move. When you stop moving, then you?re no longer an artist. And if you move from somebody else?s position, you simply cannot know the next step. I think that everyone is on his own line. I think that after you?ve made one step, the next step reveals itself. I believe that you were born on this line. I don?t say that the actual footsteps were marked before you get to them, and I don?t say that change isn?t possible in your course. But I do believe we unfold out of ourselves, and we do what we are born to do sooner or later, anyway.

It's not about facts, it's about feelings. It's about remembering feelings and happiness. A definition of art is that it makes concrete our most subtle emotions. I think the highest form of art is music. It's the most abstract of all art expression.

There are so many people who don?t know what they want. And I think that, in this world, that?s the only thing you have to know ? exactly what you want. ? Doing what you were born to do ? That?s the way to be happy.

All artwork is about beauty; all positive work represents it and celebrates it. All negative art protests the lack of beauty in our lives. When a beautiful rose dies, beauty does not die because it is not really in the rose. Beauty is an awareness in the mind. It is a mental and emotional response that we make. We respond to life as though it were perfect. When we go into a forest we do not see the fallen rotting trees. We are inspired by a multitude of uprising trees. We even hear a silence when it is not really silent. When we see a newborn baby we say it is beautiful ? perfect.

I have been talking directly to artists, but it applies to all. Take advantage of the awareness of perfection in your mind. See perfection in everything around you. See if you can discover your true feelings when listening to music. Make happiness your goal. The way to discover the truth about this life is to discover yourself. Say to yourself, ?What do I like and what do I want?? Find out exactly what you want in life. Ask your mind for inspiration about everything.

It's through discipline and tremendous disappointment and failure that you arrive at what it is you must paint.

There are two parts of the mind. The outer mind that records facts and the inner mind that says "yes" and "no." When you think of something that you should do, the inner mind says "yes" and you feel elated. We call this inspiration. For an artist this is the only way. There is no help anywhere. He must listen to his own mind.

Any material may be used but the theme is the same and the response is the same for all artwork... we all have the same concern, but the artist must know exactly what the experience is. He must pursue the truth relentlessly.

I hope I have made it clear that the work is about perfection as we are aware of it in our minds but that the paintings are very far from being perfect - completely removed in fact - even as we ourselves are.

My paintings are certainly nonobjective. They're just horizontal lines. There's not any hint of nature. And still everybody responds, I think.

There is happiness that we feel without any material stimulation. We may wake up in the morning feeling happy for no reason. Abstract or nonobjective feelings are a very important part of our lives. Personal emotions and sentimentality are anti-art.

Anything can be painted without representation.

I often paint tranquility. If you stop thinking and rest, then a little happiness comes into your mind. At perfect rest you are comfortable.

My paintings are not about what is seen. They are about what is known forever in the mind.

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Canadian-born American Abstract Painter