Recently I visited the current Jackson Pollock exhibition at the Tate Liverpool. Based on I admit very little actual experience, I had expected Pollock’s work to be very abstract indeed. In fact I was surprised by how figurative much of his work was. There is also a strong sense of motion, and that is what I want to focus on here. I was fascinated by the way in which Pollock uses a flat unmoving image to depict something fluid.
The first piece I want to mention is one of the more famous works in the Tate exhibition, “Summertime Number 9A” from 1948. A seemingly abstract frieze it also appears like a freeze frame, a dancer caught moving across the stage with each frame capturing a single moment in their movement. The sense of motion captured in a static image is unmistakable.
A different work from 1950 maintains this dialectic of static movement. The untitled “Black and White Polyptych” is a monochrome display of paint dripped sprayed and splashed across each pane. Rather than a figurative image in motion what is seen here is the movement of the artist themselves. The Polyptych captures the act of painting itself. The actions of the artist are visibly part of the work in a way not found in more ‘traditional’ art.
The last piece is “Number 23” from 1948. The motion here is more fluid and controlled. The contrast between the two colours and the texture created by the use of enamel paint make each line stand out clearly. This is not figurative but it is very fluid, and put me in mind of the still frame flowing motion of “Summertime Number 9A”, but with the focus on movement itself rather than a figure in motion.
The exhibition is at the Tate in Liverpool until October 2015.