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Free arts programme from The Assembly House Trust to take viewers into the desert world of painter Agnes Martin

PUBLISHED: 18:17 04 August 2020 | UPDATED: 18:17 04 August 2020

Assembly House Online Sarah Lowndes (C) Assembly House Trust

Assembly House Online Sarah Lowndes (C) Assembly House Trust

(C) Assembly House Trust

Assembly Online free arts programme continues with Norfolk-based writer and curator’s talk and Q&A about minimalist painter Agnes Martin

“When I think of art I think of beauty. Beauty is the mystery of life. It is not just in the eye. It is in the mind. It is our positive response to life.”

Agnes Martin was an American painter who became known for her square canvasses, meticulously-rendered grids and repeat stripes and was an artist who defined her work as studies in the pursuit of perfection.

She will be the subject of the next Assembly Online free arts programme production, We are Born as Nouns Not Verbs: Agnes Martin and the New Mexico Desert (1968-2004) on Thursday August 6 at 7.30pm, hosted by writer and curator Sarah Lowndes.

The live stream event will see Dr Lowndes giving a talk adapted from a chapter of her book, Contemporary Artists Working Outside the City: Creative Retreat.

The book explores ways in which contemporary artists in Western Europe and America have established homesteads in remote locations, while at the same time maintaining a relationship with the networks of colleagues, curators, critics and collectors found in the major art world centres.

The focus of this talk is minimalist painter Agnes Martin, who from 1968 onwards lived and worked alone in the deserts of New Mexico but meanwhile was represented by New York’s Pace gallery and continued to exhibit internationally.

“We are born as nouns not verbs” is a quotation from the writings of Martin, which is suggestive of many of the most interesting aspects of her life and work.

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Martin believed that people were born with certain potential that was specific to each individual, but that this potential would only be fully realised through “positive actions”.

She said, in a 1979 conversation with her gallerist and long-time friend, Arne Glimcher: “I want to be myself and have a true life and only then can I unfold.”

This talk will discuss Agnes Martin’s self-actualisation as it unfolded through three distinct developmental phases: the years of early experimentation (1940-1960), her time of making grid paintings in New York (1960-1967), and finally, a third phase, which began in 1974, when following her first major retrospective, and aged 63, Agnes Martin took up painting again in New Mexico, now turning to composition with stripes and a wider range of colours.

Following the reading, Dr Lowndes will be responding to questions from the viewers in a YouTube live chat. A link to the YouTube broadcast will be posted on the Assembly House Trust website

A research fellow at Norwich University of the Arts, Dr Lowndes also contributes to the public programme at The Sainsbury Centre and works with the education team at Time and Tide Museum in Great Yarmouth.

Since moving to East Anglia in 2015, she has delivered workshops, lectures, talks and chaired discussion events in a variety of settings for University of East Anglia, Norwich University of the Arts, Norfolk County Council Libraries, Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge and the National Trust, including leading WWI poetry workshops on Brancaster beach.

Under the auspices of Kunsthalle Cromer, she curated and produced Panoramic Sea Happening (2017), Esplanade: A Procession for Women (2018) and the writing and publication projects, Like the Sea I Think (2019) and Field Work (2020).


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