How Pollock Can Change Your ...

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How Pollock Can Change Your ...

From Brian K. Yoder

Published before 2005


Sebartner: Looking at amateur portraiture, you often see a deliberate, premeditated effort to describe form. Every eyelid is linearly rendered, every eye has a catch light, every lip is well defined and segregated. Those that persevere may learn to recognize features as part of a larger structure, to simplify and subordinate smaller forms to the sweep of the larger ones, as Harold Speed phrased it.

The reason that amateur painters focus so much on these things is that that's the level of work they are aspiring to. For a completely ignorant person the thing they try hard to accomplish is to learn how to hold the brush. It's the thing they are trying to master. To someone a little more advanced, they spend their time making stick figures that more or less correspond to the major things they see. That's what they spend their time doing because that's what they are trying to master. As they progress eventually they get to the point that they can draw individual objects and features more or less accurately so they work on practicing that. Those are perfectly reasonable things for students and amateurs to focus on. How could they focus on much else given what they know?

S: Pollock once exclaimed he was nature. What he succeeded in doing was to devise a way of painting that appeared as if formed by nature itself -- art disconnected from the human hand. Thus the drip process evolved placing a canvas flat on the ground allowing fluid paint to create a random effect. (We've all seen the film.) It's the core of this idea that intrigues me, that is, the rendering of form to appear as if the hand were not involved, as if it just evolved.

What is so intriguing about it? He's a guy who didn't even know how to hold a brush, let alone paint, so he just allowed random factors determine what his paintings looked like. Of what possible interest could such a stunt be?

S:My most recent work is a concerted effort to be more like Pollock's disconnected hand, to make it look as if it just happened through some natural process.

On what grounds do you consider this to be something desirable? Lack of connection between your mind and what's on the canvas just means that you weren't really involved in the process. I was not involved in the processes that Bouguereau used when he painted by that doesn't make me a genius, does it?

S:Yes, this is nothing new having been done by many a better artist than myself, yet I feel this spontaneous way of rendering form is the best way to capture the essence of the subject.

But it doesn't capture anything. It's just a random pattern that doesn't express or capture anything at all. If you are only partially allowing random effects to show up in your paintings then you are just obscuring the "essence" of your subject ... sort of like putting on foggy goggles obscures your subject. Now sometimes you might well want to obscure some aspect of your paintings (like an unimportant object in a background for example) and if so then adding obscuring factors (like loose brushwork or random patterns) might help to obscure what needs obscuring, but that approach is still obscuring the subject being rendered, not capturing the essence of it.

S:What I don't understand is, why must one be wed to one camp or the other?

Because the whole point of art is expression and randomness doesn't express anything.

S:Isn't there something to be learned from both classical and modern painting?

Not that I have seen. Can you point to one actually valid principle of modern art that you think is being overlooked? I don't know of any.

-- Brian