Agnes Martin vs. Pacific Rim
11/10/15It's good to be back at Tate Modern. I've been very lucky today. I've come to see the Agnes Martin exhibition on the last day, and it wasn't packed at all. Busy, yes, but not so much that one couldn't move. The show was fascinating, and though I must say she isn't one of my favourite artists, she's certainly one of the most touching. And like all good exhibitions, she has made me want to return to the studio and work.
I was thinking in the exhibition, specifically in the room that had the 'islands' paintings, about how divorced from my own experience her paintings are, although less so when I think about their facture. I felt myself within a dream, floating and very subtly melancholic. It was a wonderful sensation, heady yet subdued. Now that I am out of the show, I've found myself thinking about all the time I waste on pointless stupidities. For example the other day I was seriously contemplating watching Pacific Rim. I actually started the film but gave up after about twenty minutes. From what I saw, and from the unfortunate trailer that I also witnessed, it looks like one of the most pointless and brainless films ever made (I cannot talk about the Transformers movies, as I haven't seen them, but friends reassure me they make Pacific Rim look like Kane or Vertigo). Put briefly, giant machines fight giant monsters from the deep - it looks made with a joylessness and seriousness that renders it utterly absurd. It made me think of the element of the story that was missing: humanity. It lacks humanity. Agnes Martin's grids, for all their apparent formality and abstraction, contain the key to unlocking more real emotion than a thousand hours' worth of films like Pacific Rim ever will.
At the Agnes Martin Exhibition at Tate Modern
Large canvasses, muted colours and pure white walls with soft ambient light. We come to the temples of aesthetic purity. Is it a purging, is it a baptism? Why do Martin's paintings feel of their time yet timeless? David Sylvester said artists should be given the freedom to experiment and make bad art. It's part of the process of learning and developing. Martin's early work on show at TM is middling. It's when she develops her own language that things start to get better.
Writers use a voice, the voice of their alter ego to put forward certain ideas, to explore certain forms. It's much rarer for an artist to do so.
On the Islands The use of just blue and white brings to mind the sea. Why? I'm not sure. Perhaps blue and white have always been synonymous with the sea - nautical themes, the flag of Greece, the colours of the sea and sky. In this exhibition I feel far away, divorced from my own experiences. I fell as if I'm in a timeless space. It isn't the middle of October. I'm not in Tate Modern. I am far from here, in an empty dream-state, and my inchoate visions are too blurry, too indistinct to make out.