Serendipitous Minimalism

I can see humility
Delicate and white
It is satisfying
Just by itself. . .

And Trust
absolute trust
a gift
a precious gift

I would rather think of humility than
anything else.

Humility, the beautiful daughter
She cannot do either right or wrong
She does not do anything

All of her ways are empty
Infinitely light and delicate
She treads an even path.
Sweet, smiling, uninterrupted, free.

. . Agnes Martin

When I read this poem I realized what draws me almost obsessively to my latest series of art meditations. Treading the even path. Humility, trust, simplicity. I have dabbled far and afield in my artistic life in the last year with not much satisfaction. None of my wanderings have brought to me the peace of simple abstraction, serendipitously generated.

I have always been drawn to minimalism. There can be a quiet power in exploring one or two variables of form while holding all others constant. And I like to turn over my art to a serendipitous process. I like to become a cog in a process of creative design. A process which, if followed faithfully, will reveal new combinations, new creations, all by varying a few tiny variables.

Methodical, faithful, simple, creative — serendipitous minimalism has all the elements I seek in prayer. And so I find it’s my favorite kind of prayer when I have the time and space to do so. Lately I have been drawing lines of paint on rectangular fields, playing with color and contrast. I am often surprised by what emerges from these sessions. It’s like I am conjuring art rather than creating it.

The bad paintings are instructive as well. They result from not being methodical enough (letting my mind wander or get distracted), not faithful enough (not trusting the process and trying to wrench control when I judge things are not turning out to my satisfaction), not simple enough (getting bored with doing “simple” and wanting to “mix it up”). As in life. Indeed.

The recipe for success in this kind of art is humility — keep your focus, stick to your plan, keep things simple, don’t over control, and let the creation emerge under your care. Agnes Martin is my patron saint for this artistic path, this type of prayer.

So my question is — is there anyone out there pursuing this kind of art, of prayer? I’d kind of like to compare notes.

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