Jackson Pollock is one of the most important artists of the 20th Century. His controversial work divides opinion and prompts the viewer to look for a deeper meaning to his work. The exhibition ‘Blind Spots’ at Tate Liverpool showcases his popular work such as ‘Summertime’ along with lesser known pieces like his black paintings.
Pollock’s work is instantly recognisable because of his trademark paint ‘drips’. The use of paint in this way shows his defiance of the medium, challenging any artist that had come before him. His technique has been well-documented and is shown in the short film ‘Jackson Pollock 51’. However, Pollock mostly poured paint on to the canvas as oppose to flicking it as is often thought. By doing this he was able to work with greater precision, giving him more control over the paint. Many times he would not even take the lid off the paint can, instead piercing it with a screwdriver.
His seminal painting ‘Summertime’ captures likeness through its use of bright blues and yellows as is usually associated with the season, however in true abstract-expressionism style the paint weaves itself together in no particular form. The strong use of black gives the image a darker side that could be interpreted as a representation of Pollock’s own depression and alcoholism. The large width of the painting means that it can be viewed like a narrative, I believe that it was Pollock’s intention to walk with the image as oppose to look at it from a distance. This allows for a more personal connection with the work.
Pollock worked by placing a canvas on the floor and standing above it to throw the paint, so sometimes his work is displayed on the floor to give a greater sense of what Pollock would have experienced himself. However, at Tate all of his work is hung, this shows his work as true finished art that is to be displayed.
The exhibition makes an effort to show the evolution of Pollock’s style from his early colourful paintings to his black paintings and ultimately his final work ‘A Portrait and a Dream’. This painting in particular gives us a rare insight into Pollock ‘the man’ as his work is generally not self-reflecting in a personal sense. The portrait aspect is unusually figurative for Pollock and may have marked a significant turning point in his career. The title suggests that it is a portrait first and then a dream, which is Pollock’s intention. Therefore, what appears to be the portrait is actually the dream, and the poured black paint is the portrait. This once again shows a deeper, darker and troubled side to Pollock himself.
Among the paintings are some of Pollock’s sculptures, they are significantly different in scale to his large paintings and may easily be overlooked. Like his paintings his sculptures also divide opinion, however in my opinion the sculptures complement his work. A small self-portrait sculpture connects to his final work by having himself as the subject, showing honesty but also adding personality to the exhibition itself. Another sculpture is almost a 3D model of his paintings, which looks natural and washed up.
Pollock was an artist who achieved praise and recognition during his lifetime. I think this is why there is little evolution or variation in his work. In someways he was expected to keep creating drip paintings, so experimented with little else. Even his final work still includes his trademark style.
Overall, the exhibition is cohesive and all of his paintings work together along with showing his style evolving. Through lesser known pieces such as the black paintings and his sculptures, he is explored further than his well-known works and is shown to be an artist that is as relevant today as he was over 50 years ago.
Image: ‘Summertime: Number 9A’ (1948) by Jackson Pollock/Tate