Sunday, June 28, 2015

What is your favorite Pollock painting and why?

I just answered a question on Quora, and I thought I should repost it here.

I have many favorites, but I recently was in Seattle and saw one that I hadn't seen before.  It's really not attention grabbing, and pretty small for a Pollock, and the color range is very minimal.  All this said, when I actually saw this painting it totally blew my mind.  

The painting is called "Sea Change", for reasons that will become obvious.  Here's what you can see in the painting in person not in reproduction: 

The main colors are aluminum paint and a glossy black enamel.  There are also pebbles in it, which adds to the texture.  The paint surface is three dimensional in some uncanny way so that as you move from side to side, different light glints off the surface in different places and the black lines throb in and out space as you move past it.  It completely shifts and changes.

Depending on what angle you look at it from the depth some times looks like three to six inches, even though the paint is not nearly that thick. It may be that paint going over the pebbles also adds to the effect, as a black line of paint would have a radically different  shape from different angles. 

Pollock must have known what he was doing, although I have no idea how he was able to pull it off, and have never seen another painting behave in exactly this way before producing this kind of 3-D false parallax.  

I think that in some way he got the silvery paint to reflect from two different positions one for each eye, much like what you see in 3-D glasses.  Also if the glossy black paint is hit by light from the side it as seen by one eye, and not the other, that could also produce some of that mysterious depth.  It's not a stable effect, so as you move past it, to the right or left it keeps changing.

Here is an image of the painting.  But it is NOT the painting, and you can only get the vaguest idea of its effect from this photo...

Sea change is a Shakespearian coinage, and means "a profound or notable transformation."

Full fathom five thy father lies:
Of his bones are coral made:
Those are pearls that were his eyes:
Nothing of him that doth fade
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.

Incidentally, this speech from The Tempest was the source for the title of another of Pollock's paintings, Full Fathom Five.

I also just found a video on how the work was conserved.  Even if you aren't into conservation, it gives some really good closeups so you can see you incredibly complex the surface is:

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