Agnes Martin (part of Artist Rooms)
The Canadian-American artist's later works offer calm reflection
A late addition to the Artist Rooms series is a room of eight paintings by the Canadian-American artist Agnes Martin. The exhibition features late works, dating from 1994–2002, when Martin was in her late 80s and no longer able to manipulate the six-foot-square canvases which had been her signature size. But they have the same horizontal bands of luminous sunset colour, the same hand-drawn pencil lines and uneven acrylic washes of her earlier paintings, and her gentle minimalism, or abstract expressionism (the term she used herself), has the same feeling ‘of beauty and freedom’ that she had always aimed for.
‘I want people, when they look at my paintings, to have the same feelings they experience when they look at landscape,’ Martin once said, and landscape is perhaps a very good way of thinking about these paintings, because after a while you almost don’t need to concentrate on the lines and washes and specific canvasses – just to share their space is enough.
It helps that this room is marvellously complete as a space. Four canvasses face four windows on the opposite wall, and square panes glowing through translucent blinds are in elegant, resonant harmony with the paintings. There are eight square panels to the lighting rig on the suspended ceiling. It is a space of light and joy and contemplation, and after the noise and angst of Festival Edinburgh this Artist’s Room is a fine place to sit, think, and enjoy the view.
Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh, until Sun 8 Nov