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Monday, March 29, 2010
 
In an earlier comment I stated that Reginald Pollack, as one of the great artists of our time, expressed both motion and emotion in his paintings – motion being the distinguishing characteristic of our time and emotion being the extra dimension that great artists bring to art.  That dimension is that in addition to helping us see, what we otherwise would miss, great artists show us how to love what we see, and essentially to love ourselves and love the world we live in.
 
In my comment, I also invited people to look at Pollack’s art to see for themselves how he expresses both motion and emotion.  Following is how I see it, and I invite you to look at the paintings and see how many of them support what I write.   
 
Regarding motion, Pollack gives us a sense of energetic movement in four ways:
 
1. Brush strokes - Pollack’s brush strokes have the fluidity and grace of oriental calligraphy.  The brush lands and takes off.  It twists and turns.  It shimmers and shimmies. It arcs and spreads, gliding across the hard surface of the marlite, like a figure skater.  This is not painting by numbers.  This is not recitation of a studied work.  This is rather the expression of an inner vision at the moment of its coming.  His painter’s hand is as quick, sensitive, and masterfully unerring as a compass needle.  Through his brushes and other painter’s tools Pollack conveys the feeling that life and movement course through everything, underlie everything.  His paintings say through his brushwork, “Things are going on.  This is life.”
 
2. Movement across the surface of the painting – On one level, Pollack’s paintings are like the texts of poems.  They must be read.  In many of his paintings, the starting point is the lower right corner.  One moves to the middle of the left side and then upward toward the right corner, then across the top to the left side, to the middle of the right side, and then down to the left corner.  The paintings have a collage quality, and there are stopping points along the way.  There are things to see.  The painting is a process.  It is like music.  It is like a garden of various delights and Pollack often creates pathways for us to follow.
 
3.  Movement toward and away from the painting – There is no optimum fixed position to view many of Pollack’s paintings.  Move closely and you will find jewels hidden in the grass.  Move further away and you will find the suggestion of larger figures that you missed before.  Correspondingly, as it is desirable for the viewer to move alternatively closer or away from the painting to enjoy and appreciate it fully, there is often no fixed or common depth of field inside Pollack’s paintings.  A head can be cheek to jowl next to a body.  The sense of depth is fleeting and variable.  As in real life, where one can be reading a poem on a park bench and suddenly look up to see the crown of a tree pushing against a cloud on the other side of the park, all is part of the same scene.  Most conventional paintings might contain the surface of the page in front of you or the tree, but not both.  Pollack’s paintings contain both. 
 
4. Movements of the figures in the paintings - Many of Pollack’s paintings contain so-called poglins, small human like figure, angels, or the suggestions of figures, or parts of figures, or even parts of other creatures, animals, horses, birds, etc.  Very often these figures are in motion – running, dancing, stretching, flying, fighting, running, shouting, parading, climbing, meeting, falling, and so forth.  On the detail level, Pollack’s paintings often bristle with activity.
 
So thoroughgoing is “motion” in Pollack’s work that some people almost get vertigo when they encounter them, or they see chaos and confusion and even violence in them.  They are overwhelmed with data, as in the rest of our lives we are so often overwhelmed with data – in our newspapers, through the internet – and overwhelmed with sights – in our busy highways and in our busy cities.   Many people feel that the last thing they need in their lives is more chaos and confusion.  They seek to escape that, especially in art from which they expect comforting beauty . 
 
And this is where the second part of Pollack’s creativity comes to play.  Pollack has gotten beyond what he sees in our day to day life and has found a way to tame it, and to convert it and transform it into something we can love.  
 
He does it in a variety of ways:
 
1.  Intimation of perfection – Even while on one level there is so much going on in Pollack’s paintings, so much motion, there is on another level a sense of completion, of fullness, of perfection, and of absolute stillness.  One is momentarily breathless and in awe of what has been accomplished.  Pollack achieves perfection through balance: balance of figures, of shapes, of lines, and of colors. Each painting is an exquisitely harmonious whole.  Each painting constitutes a complete unit – with nothing left out, nothing more to change, to add, or to subtract.  In certain respects, this is accomplished by many contemporary artists, indeed artists of all times.  For example, Jackson Pollock’s paintings proliferate with a cacophony of drips and colors, and the activity within them is as confusing as the surface of a ball of string.  But taken as whole, they are complete and perfect.   
 
2.  Echoes of intimacy – Probably the images that most of us encounter in the earliest moments of our lives are our mothers’ faces.  And associated with these faces is the connection we make through eye contact.   Many of Pollack’s paintings contain images of faces.  And Pollack uses eyes, those perfect circles that we encounter in the earliest moments of our lives and in nature everywhere, as focal points in his paintings.  Circles, derivative of eyes, also supply the architecture of many paintings.  In Pollack’s paintings, we not only connect with the painting through our eyes, but also the painting connects with us through its eyes.  The artist is caring for us. 
 
3.  Expression of human community – Pollack’s poglins are often people engaged in cooperative adventures – choreographed dances, games, parades, and so forth.  Pollack’s paintings often contain figures seemingly having fun.  After all, who wouldn’t have fun flying through the air like Peter Pan.  Pollack conveys a sense of joy in their pursuits.  Is this merely wishful thinking?  Probably not.  Despite what we hear and read in the news, today’s cultures and societies are nothing less than miraculous in their display of human cooperativeness and civility and play.  Pollack’s paintings help us to see how interactive and collective and fun loving we are.  
 
  • Spirituality – Pollack uses real world images and symbols to convey the world of spirit.   The world of spirit is the world of feelings, mindfulness, and conscious awareness. It is the result of connection between things and people, and is symbolized by the triangle, which is ubiquitous in Pollack’s art.  The two points of a triangle are connected by a single line; the consciousness of that connection creates another dimension.  That consciousness can perhaps be called god.  So Pollack’s paintings are strikingly spiritual and metaphysical, and in that respect they differ markedly from most of contemporary art.  Pollack’s paintings evoke a space and place, but the place tends to be in the sky and where the rules of gravity do not apply.  There’s a freedom and a joy in the spirit that the paintings evoke.  Often their movement tends to progress upward and even to soar.  They are full of aspiration and have a dream quality to them.  Discoveries and revelations seem ever on the verge of being made.  Pollack reminds us that this spirituality animates our everyday world.  It is available to us if we take the time to see and feel.

Bern Duval
Washington, DC  
 
lavud says
Reginald Pollack is a master at expressing both motion and emotion in his art. In doing so, he epitomizes the freshness and insight of the best in contemporary art. As to the importance of motion, we all know that the major difference in our contemporary world and the worlds of the past is our abiding sense that we live in a world of constant movement, from the atomic level all the way up to the macro level. In our world nothing is permanent. All is changing constantly. How does Reginald Pollack manage to capture our contemporary experience in his paintings? Look closely at his paintings and see for yourself. As for emotion, great artists not only reveal who we are, not only hold up a mirror to ourselves and our experience, but they also teach us to love who we are. This is the key to great art. And Reginald's works are full of love. How does Reginald show this? How does he communicate this love for us and who we are? Once again, look at the paintings and see for yourself.
posted at 08:48AM Mar 11 PST