Agnes Martin- The Pioneer of Minimalist Art Movement

"Until you clear your identity you will be tied to the repetition of this life." - Agnes Martin



For long we had been planning to work on a print collection but nothing around inspired us to say ‘This is the one’. Every year we would sketch and paint and every year would scrap the idea. We wanted to create something clean which echoed minimalism and simplicity. So when we came across the story & works of Agnes Martin, we instantly knew we had found our inspiration.

The more we read about her and saw her work, the more we looked up to her.

Portrait of Agnes Martin (Source: e-flux conversations)

Who was Agnes Martin? 

Often called one of the most important artists of the twentieth century, Agnes Martin is most notable for her role as a pioneer of the abstract movement known as Minimalism.

In a career spanning five decades, Martin became known for her square canvasses, meticulously rendered grids and repeat stripes

Before she died in 2004 at the age of ninety-two her paintings sold for millions of dollars and were displayed in the world's greatest museumsMartin was respected and achieved the art world’s highest awards. She painted for twenty-three years, until she reached a style she was happy with in 1964. (below: Morning by Agnes Martin, 1965)

Morning by Agnes Martin

Her Life:

Born into a Scottish family, Agnes was drawn towards Buddhist way of getting through life. While minimalist in form, her paintings were quite different in spirit from those of her other minimalist counterparts, retaining small flaws and unmistakable traces of the artist's hand; she shied away from intellectualism, favoring the personal and spiritual.

Her paintings, statements, and influential writings often reflected an interest in Eastern philosophy, especially Taoist. Because of her work's added spiritual dimension, which became more and more dominant after 1967, she preferred to be classified as an abstract expressionist.  

For us, her understating of asymmetry within symmetry resonated with our belief of perfection within imperfection.

"If you live entirely in the past you will not know beauty or happiness and you will not in fact live." Quotation about life and happiness by Agnes Martin (Source: tate.org.uk)

Her Legacy:

Agnes Martin’s works influenced a global audience and played a hugely significant role in 20th Century art history. Whilst known as a pioneer of abstract painting, her work as well as her reclusive lifestyle served as an inspiration to creative practitioners in diverse disciplines.

Painters, photographers, writers – and many devotees from the words of fashion, architecture and graphic design revisit and rephrase her perspectival studies and fascination with geometry, the legacy of which can be seen in investigations in to brevity of line and muted colour palettes

Her work even inspired a Google doodle on the 102nd anniversary of her birth on March 22, 2014.

Tremolo by Agnes Martin, 1962 (Source: moma.org)

Getting Started:

Agnes Martin worked a lot in reds & blues and this became a good starting point for us. We worked out on few tones and finally settled on a deep cobalt blue, crimson red & black.

a photograph of water colors in a pallete, brushes and water in a white cup from top by Rameshwari

The colours were easy to decide on. But the task was to translate the grids & lines onto the fabric.

We thought of stitch lines, block printing but none of them felt right. We decided to show the grids & lines to a dear friend, Sanjay Chippa. Being a 5th generation block printing artisan in Jaipur, he is well versed with the art of hand printing. ‘Fine lines’, he said, ‘are difficult to obtain with wooden blocks. They can be made, but will need brass metal blocks. The lines will be fine, a little uneven but exactly how you want them to be. The only problem is that it is difficult to handle than a regular block’

The brass metal blocks was made in Farrukhabad in Uttar Pradesh and after a wait of two weeks we finally had our hands on the block. And I must tell you, it looked beautiful.

A close-up shot of brass printing block with straight lines, kept on a table.

Once the blocks came, we immediately started the sampling and this is how it came out!

brass block hand printed swatches of straight lines, dots and checks in red and blue colour

We began printing with Raju Chippa and Sajeev Kumar, fondly known as Pandit Ji. While they were used to printing with wooden blocks, the metal block slowed them down. Each block needed to be meticulously matched.

Close-up of a metal block being printed on griege Khadi fabric in a printing lab

We did a lot of iterations, some looked simple and some looked engaging. But what eventually came out, is the first collection we ever printed, the one we are truly fond of-

A Khadi stoles inspired by the artworks of Agnes Martin. Printed in red and blue with stripes and checks using metal blocks

You can go through the collection here!

As an ode to the life & works of Agnes Martin, each Cotton Rack apparel is named after her paintings. One, even after her untitled one.

This series of stoles were inspired from her series of 30 serigraphs, On a Clear Day


1 comment

  • Rashmi Tanwar

    Thank you for introducing a great artist. This would help me to enhance my knowledge.


Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published