My favourite thing to do in a gallery is to listen to other peoples’ conversations about the pieces. I love art and I also love making crude jokes; for me this presents a wonderful binary wherein I don’t take anything too seriously. I am very lucky to have friends that appreciate that when I’m stood in an almost silent exhibition saying “that thing totally looks like a huge axolotl in a party hat.” I hope other people enjoy listening to my conversations as much as I do to theirs.
Whenever I make a statement like that in an art gallery I get a little self concious because you’re not really supposed to have fun and make dumb statements in a gallery. Being flippant or giggly is not really encouraged but I’ve always thought that was wrong! The thing about this piece is that I see Picasso and influences of Goya like you’re supposed to and I understand that this piece is actually kind of nightmarish, I sat in front of it and looked at it for a long time assessing the shapes and themes and at the end of the day… I saw a really big axolotl in a party hat cruising over a really summery island. It’s okay if a particular piece of art doesn’t speak to you, even after you’ve read the curators notes. It doesn’t devalue the feelings put into that piece just because it doesn’t say that to you and once you see something it’s really difficult to un-see it.
Or so I’m telling myself anyway. I really enjoyed the exhibition overall actually and I learned so much about Jackson Pollock’s work. It was really interesting to learn about the different paints that he used and see the effects that they created on the page. One of my favourite pieces was actually an untitled work where he had painted the canvas white, then poured black paint onto the wet white paint in order to create an effect that I can only describe as black neon. It’s such a simple idea, every artist has to prime their canvas but to use that preparatory coat of paint as part of the effect for your painting, fantastic.
Summertime was another piece that I thought was brilliant. I sat in front of this one for a long time too. The length of the piece is so interesting and what I love is that it conjures the image of a lively garden party. I can picture loud jazz playing and lots of people dancing under a gazebo on a warm evening. Everyone is smiling and drinking, the mood is high. I really like that aspect of abstract art in that we give our brains a keyword for a title and some squiggles and we can imagine so much from that. I’m really jealous of this piece because Pollock knew exactly when to stop and when he was done. It’s so good to know when to just put things down and go “that’s enough” and it’s a skill that takes a long time to master because you have to shut up a pretty big word in your head that’s saying “ooh you could put a little more red there.”
My favourite piece of all was “A portrait and a dream.” I love pieces that combine misery and dreaminess. I love sad music, The Smiths are probably in my top 10 most listened to. I actually found this piece really quiet and sensual, more so than the more obviously sexual paintings. I loved the amount of negative space in the image and the contrast between the two sides, one including the black pouring which evoked, to me, a storm of butterflies and the other a solemn self portrait in colour. I think this was the piece I spent the longest in front of, which is saying something given that I stayed at the whole exhibition for about three hours.