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Posts Tagged ‘Jackson Pollock’

I am sure there are plenty of artists who would argue this point made by Jackson Pollock. Like religion, many would most likely defend their chosen means of expression as the best.

But I think he is saying there is no one right way, no one technique that ranks above all others in issuing an artist’s statement. Each artist’s individual voice comes through their own chosen technique. Their statement–their statement of belief, if you will– arrives via that technique.

I know that’s been my experience. I am generally looking for a statement of some sort from an artist in their work, something that displays their own truth regardless of how it is expressed.

Something that makes me feel the need to look at it.

It can be in any style, stretching from the most refined painting created by a classically schooled artist down to an untrained folk artist who uses their local mud as their painting medium because that is all that is at hand. So long as each is earnestly created (and that is an important distinction) and provokes a true emotional response, any and all technique is valid.

To bring it back to the religious analogy, the earnest belief of the lone person sitting in a decrepit hut somewhere may be as valid as that of  a priest in the grandest cathedral.

Art, like religion, is diminished when we fail to see the validity of all other voices.

 

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Lee Krasner- Night Creatures

My own image of my work is that I no sooner settle into something than a break occurs. These breaks are always painful and depressing but despite them I see that there’s a consistency that holds out, but is hard to define.

Lee Krasner

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I’ve been in a funk with my work lately, one that makes it hard to even want to pick up the brushes. It reminds me of the one I felt at this exact time ten years back. My Archaeology series emerged from the depths of that funk so even though there is general sense of blah, I am optimistic.

Part of my process in clawing out of a funk is looking at work– my own and others– and reading on the experiences of others. I came across the quote above from the late artist Lee Krasner (1908-1984) and it spoke to how I have been feeling as of late. I spent a little time looking at her work and chose several that sparked my interest immediately.

Now, I am not well schooled on Abstract Expressionism so I am able to speak with any authority on her work or on her place in art history. But I do like these and a number more by her, finding something in them that inspires me with their rhythm, forms and composition. Born into a Jewish family in what is now the Ukraine, many scholars find elements of Hebrew script in the forms of some of her works.

Most of you, if you know her name at all, recognize her as the wife of Jackson Pollock.  It’s unfortunate that she is mainly known in this way because her own work has had an enduring power that has been sometimes overshadowed by Pollock’s notoriety. She is an interesting figure in modern art. Take a look sometime. Here is short video with much of her work.

Lee Krasner- Untitled (Little Image)

Lee Krasner- Noon

Lee Krasner- Composition 1949

Lee Krasner- Promenade

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Jackson Pollock -Convergence 1952Painting is a state of being…Painting is self discovery.  Every good painter paints what he is.

–Jackson Pollock

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In yesterday’s The Guardian, here was a review of a current exhibit at the Tate Liverpool of Jackson Pollock paintings.  Writer Jonathan Jones describes Pollock’s work around 1950, in the period when he was briefly liberated from his chronic alcoholism,  as being the pinnacle of his career. As he put it : Pollock was painting at this moment like his contemporary Charlie Parker played sax, in curling arabesques of liberating improvisation that magically end up making beautiful sense.

GC Myers-Under TextureThat sentence really lit me up, as did the words of Pollock at the top of the page.   In Pollock’s work I see that beautiful sense of which Jones writes. I see order and rhythm, a logic forming from the seemingly incomprehensible. The textures that make up the surfaces of my own paintings are often formed with Pollock’s paintings in mind, curling arabesques in many layers.  In fact, one of the themes of my work is that same sense of finding order from chaos.

 To some observers, however, Pollock’s work represented the very chaos that plagued the world then and now.  But true to his words, Pollock’s work was indeed a reflection of what he was– a man seeking grace and sense in a chaotic world.

Painting is, as Pollock says, self discovery and indeed every painter ultimately paints what they are.  I know that in the work of painters I personally know I clearly see characteristics of their personality, sometimes of their totality.

I believe that my work also reveals me in this way.  It shows everything– strengths and weaknesses, hopes and fears.  You might think that a painter would be clever enough to show only those positive attributes of his character, like the answers people give when asked to describe their own personality.  There are some that try but it comes off as contrivance. Real painting, real art, is in total revelation, showing the chaos and complexity of our true self and attempting to find order and beauty within it.

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Thomas Hart Benton Google ScreenshotOne of the books in my to-read pile that is more of a tower now is one called Tom and Jack from writer Henry Adams.  It details the long relationship between Thomas Hart Benton and Jackson Pollock, two painters seemingly worlds apart– Pollock known for his vibrant abstracted drip paintings and Benton for his distinct but more objective view of the American landscape.

But Benton was a mentor, teacher and surrogate father for Pollock and many of his lessons found form in Pollock’s work, particularly the ability to create a rhythm in each painting.  Both were masters of the graceful organic rhythms that run through their works.

One of the things I often do when looking at the work of other artists is to do a Google image search for that artist.  Seeing the work grouped together, as you can see in the  images at the top and bottom of the page, allows me to quickly take in the overall tone and feel, to get an idea of the general fingerprint of that artist.  At the top is a screenshot of Benton’s landscapes and the thing that  immediately jumps out at me is the beautiful organic roll  of the landscape that creates a rhythm that instantly draws me in.

Thomas Hart Benton _trail-ridersOne of the paintings from the Benton page is shown here on the left, The Trail Riders, and is a great example of this rhythm.  It creates a sense of movement and gives the forms of the landscape an almost human quality in its curves and rolls which makes it seem familiar.  Part of us, who we are.  For me, that rhythm in Benton’s work was a revelation.  The landscape became something more that a static backdrop.  It was alive and breathing and moving, very often the central character in the work.

And I knew that was what I wanted in my own work, just as I believe Pollock  observed it and wanted for his own work.  And he found a way to take that rhythm and create his own living  landscape through his distinct  visual vocabulary.  Much different than Benton but built on the same underlying energies.

Seeing both their works is really motivating for me, making me chomp at the bit  this morning.  Each spurs me in many directions, but always fast and forward moving.

And that is always a good thing…

Jackson Pollock Google Screenshot

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“When I am in my painting, I’m not aware of what I’m doing. It is only after a sort of “get acquainted” period that I see what I have been about. I have no fears about making changes, destroying the image, etc., because the painting has a life of its own. I try to let it come through. It is only when I lose contact with the painting that the result is a mess. Otherwise there is pure harmony, an easy give and take, and the painting comes out well.”

–Jackson Pollock

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Well put words from Pollock, words that very much fit with how I feel about my own work and process, even though our works seem to have little in common in appearance.  I think it’s the harmony that he speaks of that is our common ground.  At least, I hope.

Note:  The show, Internal Landscapes: The Paintings of GC Myers, has opened two days early at the Fenimore Art Museum in Cooperstown.

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