Never Mind The Pollocks

Artists are a strange breed I suppose. Their art often stranger still. We look and fail to understand it then it becomes ‘shit’ and we walk on, or slide a finger more like in these days, across the screen and onto the next morsel of art madness. I’m sneaking into another gallery to see a painting. My school uniform is tattered and the sole of one of my shoes is falling off. I got to Birmingham when every trip on a bus or a train in the West Midlands cost just 2p. I went everywhere to see art. Watch musicians. To find out about things I had no understanding of.

I understood Jackson Pollock intimately, and I always did. Straight away. Everything he painted reverberated within me and became a metaphysical narrative instead of a pictorial one. Much has been written about Jackson, it normally waxes on his alcoholism, his errant humanity and his cheek at daring to tread the same carpet as his Peers. His work, most important work was done between the years 1947-51 and the splashes and drips entered the world like a screaming child. Splashes and drips eh? And how the Critics still wax those lyrics about the flat planes he left behind him. Read what you will about the art but you will read more about him, his politics, his background, his Wife even, Lee Krasner an Artist of repute herself.

But the art was the most important thing. The act of arting. Covering the plane of Canvas with incidents and subtle arcs we tend to concentrate on the flatness and the remains of his act and it is an ordered chaos we see. You can even delicately unfocus the eyes and see the layers of paint colour as they were applied and even the touches afterwards, after the vicious movement and hours spent in the fractured and weathered barn he painted in. But it’s only half the story. I sense Jackson had more of a relationship with Austin Osman Spare than the dog whistling of abstract expressionism. So the influence of Jackson Pollock as man and his art as part of that narrative is a false one. Where we should be looking is the act. Extrapolate the splashes and drips upwards and form a three dimensional cube from the flatness of the canvas. Do it by colour and untangle each and every loop from the painting and tease it until the sweep of paint is off the flat plane. So the vermillion loop here or there is picked out and lifted and then set into position in 3d space. The beginning of the loop of pigment will be at the highest point because this is the start of the arc. The end of course we will leave just touching the canvas. The sacred space is the area above the canvas, not the canvas itself.

Now we see the action and throughout every arc and loop something that starts to resemble other shapes, other colours too as we are looking at it from a completely different viewpoint. We will see an arc split as the brush or the stick is flicked roughly with the wrist. The paint stream stutters and then becomes drops or minute dots that fall on the canvas. A loop split into separate parts and lost almost within the cacophony of the act, the sheer volume of painting. But I also see within this 3d cube an almost terrifying exactness or metaphysical plan, a series of almost sigilic commentary where every touch of paint is seen as it’s own unique almost liturgical intent. The colour becomes meaningless and just a method to highlight a unique phrase or sigil which is then only really alive as it drips and flies through the air and when it touches and settles on the canvas becomes pure history or academic chatter. It is written on again and again until the phrase becomes hidden and tangled almost unrecognisable from every other loop of colour. The act of drawing the huge loops of paint, the way they are applied, the grunting of effort as the loop is cast is everything and the canvas when completed all that remains is puzzle to the uninitiated, a mess to the ignorant. Jackson Pollock was not the Shaman yet but he did see and became part of the process of explaining his visions when the act of explaining it stuttered and faltered. His message is one that is engraved upon the air and in the moment unleashed. In the 3d space it is active and alive and when settled is null and void, just a riddle

In ‘Lavender Mist’ above. There is a delicacy of vision for sure. There are delicate cobwebs of enamel and chemical paints that will lead you into it. It is a complexity which draws you in and indeed spits you out the other side as you become more and more lost. People look at a Pollock of these years with confusion. They are reading the story upside down of course. And back to front. No wonder Jackson brings so much pain to these people. They are used to understanding. Where Picasso blatantly proscribes his own narrative in a way or form that is quite simple to understand, Jackson demands hard work to see just a glimpse of the pain he wanted us to see. It is hidden, this narrative, and occult. It was enough for him to have this outburst and to say the things he wanted to and then release himself from the grip of his creative energy and slide back into nothingness. His work done. No blathering and whispering for him. No pedestal to sit upon and loftily proclaim his thoughts. A blonde with big tits, a fast car driven drunkenly into a tree. An early and hard fought death and let the rats write what they wished.

I write this here just to remember the salient points of my impressions of Jackson Pollock and this place becomes just a box to put my thoughts about him. I forget easily why and wherefore. Artists are Shamans or are on a path to being one. I skived off School way back in the late 70’s early 80’s to see a full sized print of Lavender mist at Birmingham art gallery. I hadn’t eaten for a few days and was weak and as the art got closer as I walked towards it I fainted and awoke to a plethora of folk around me. It wasn’t the lack of food or my energy which dropped me. It was the message in the art. It hit me like a punch. I ‘got’ Jackson straight away and as I sipped the sugary tea the Security Guard brought to me I watched the artwork move and slide around within it’s flat plane like it wanted to burst free. It felt confined, then I puked in my own lap and everyone took exactly one step back.

Comments are closed.