Of all the art movements I’ve been trying to get to grips with, Abstract Expressionism is the one I have hadthe most trouble with. I’ve been thinking it’s like reading James Joyce. His early works are like the Impressionists, you understand the story but the language blurs that understanding at times. Then you move onto Ulysses, which is like the Cubists and Surrealists where each chapter takes a slightly different standpoint, but there is still a narrative. And then you hit Finnegan’s Wake which is impenetrable without a guidebook telling you what it means.
Today I took advantage of my Tate Membership to attend the Members’ preview at Tate Liverpool for ‘Jackson Pollock:Blind Spots’ -a title that was completely apt in my case. Pollock’s drip paintings seemed a bit angry to me and I had always sighed and did the ‘anyone can do that’ face. Wrong! ‘Anyone’ cannot do this and they are not remotely angry either.
The exhibition begins by putting some perspective on his work and I very much liked ‘Number 3, 1949: Tiger’ which reminded me of Rosseau’s work and suddenly Pollock didn’t seem so scary. Cue a little victory dance!
When you examine the ‘black’ paintings, their fluidity and movement is quite pronounced. I saw this with Mark Rothko recently and I have become more aware of the paint on the canvas and the way different media react to primed and unprimed canvases or on papers. When Pollock chose to use unprimed canvases, you can see the way the paint bleeds and gives a variety of edges and this was quite exciting. It creates a range of effects from blurring the lines to creating marble effect. The use of enamel paint does give the work an impression of still being wet, which is somewhat eerie.
There seemed to be quite a link to Picasso with two canvases: Number 14 and Untitled: Silver Square. This one: Number 14, is reminiscent of Guernica, with its reclining figures writhing on the canvas.
Just as a side note, there are also a few sculptures and the very first one he did ‘Stone Head’ from 1933 is sublime and it does make you want to take it our of the case to cradle it in your hand.
The final room was Pollock’s work on paper, particulary Japanese Mulberry Paper and these were quite beautiful and gentle, with an oriental flavour to them which may or may not be coincidental.
A great exhibition and one I’ll go back to later in the summer for another peruse.