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  • Writer's pictureHaydn Dickenson

DON'T LOOK 'FOR' – LOOK PASSIVELY!




The concise and magnificent words in today's title came from the mouth of Jackson Pollock, one of the greatest, most influential and innovative painters of the New York Abstract Expressionist school.


How straight and fast Pollock loosed his arrow, in his evaluation of the ideal way to approach what he called 'Modern Art'.


Contemporary art, despite its intrinsically subjective nature which allows for unlimited nuances of reaction, remains sadly vulnerable to prejudice. It often seems that, because a painting does not look 'like' something, it attracts derision. I find this illogical. The very fact that an abstract painting 'looks like' nothing on earth gives it a uniqueness of identity, of gesture and message that all come entirely from within, rather than being an interpretation of something tangible, observed, recorded and interpreted from without. Isn't that rather lovely?


My readers know that I am evangelical about encouraging an open-minded, inclusive appreciation of abstract painting. I take – with apologies to James Joyce – a 'stream of consciousness' critical standpoint; one where the viewer allows themselves to be flooded with sensory input that comes pouring from the very heart of the painting itself.


When collectors of my work couch their reactions in terms that reflect the above mentality, I know I have succeeded.


Haydn's themes are both mystical and metaphorical”


I can get lost in the brushstrokes and the swirls of paint and I can’t ever quite define it.”


The painting has a peaceful, uplifting energy and at times it even seems as if it radiates light.”


I chose this painting as it gives me a feeling of space and isn't contained; it seems to continue outside the canvas.”



abstract painting in blue, pink and earth colours by emerging artist Haydn
A STRETCH OF THE IMAGINATION - Haydn (2021)

Let us return to Jackson Pollock. While Pollock is not one of my favourite Abstract Expressionist painters, his influence has always been seismic. The Pollock style and approach still typify the popular conception of the action painter, a situation that simultaneously honours the artist's memory and does it a disservice.



Jackson Pollock action painting Lavender Mist
LAVENDER MIST - Jackson Pollock

Jackson Pollock painting in Tate Modern
No. 14 - Jackson Pollock (1951). Tate Modern Gallery, London.

That disservice is done because the trope of the 'tortured genius' in art has become clichéd and over-prevalent. By its endless reiteration, the hideous and insulting caricature of the wild man chucking paint randomly at a floor-mounted canvas is encouraged to clasp itself, limpet-like, to the dullard collective public consciousness.


Indeed, when I began painting abstract art, someone who should have known better got off on the wrong foot by proclaiming to me “Ah, I perceive the influence of Jackson Pollock” just because my painting happened to display a few drips – drips, please note, rather than 'splats'!


Equivalent demeaning mythical tropes in music would be the crazy devil-possessed Paganini-clone violinist or the ridiculously demonstrative 'mad' pianist, long hair flailing around him, as he thunders out clangourous fistfuls of chords.


Pollock, Kline, Motherwell et al were so much more than such comic-book slurs, as are most abstract painters today and – on the musical side – most pianists, violinists and others.


Below follow some questions and answers put to and answered by Jackson Pollock in a short documentary:


Q. What is the meaning of modern art?

A. The thing that interests me is that, today, painters do not need to go to a subject-matter outside themselves. Most modern painters work from within, expressing the energy, the motion and other forces.


Q. How should one look at a Pollock painting? How do we learn to appreciate modern art?

A. Try not to 'look for' something, but to look passively. Try to receive what the painting has to offer. It should be enjoyed, just as music is enjoyed. You may like it, or you may not, but at least give it a chance.


Thank you, JP, thank you so much.






Copyright Haydn Dickenson 2024

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5月26日
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I love the idea of passive observation. It’s very freeing!

いいね!
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