Number 11, 1952

This is an ekphrastic poem about a painting.

See (a low resolution) image of the painting below, or else visit the National Gallery of Australia and see it properly.  Until I wrote this I had no idea what my attitude to Jackson Pollock was, but having studied the painting in as much detail as I could (without travelling internationally) and read up on the story (and minor controversies) of its creation, I find I am a convert, at least to Number 11, 1952 or Blue Poles as it is known.

This poem is trying to be roughly in the shape of one of the "poles".  Arguably this is missing the point.  Some people object to the name Blue Poles because they think it makes you focus on the poles as the subject of the painting, when you should study the almost-fractal details of the whole.

I don't know about that, I just enjoy the painting.


Number 11, 1952

The change of name and addition of eponymous blue poles
might make us feel he wavered, vacillated, changed his mind;
but you can see the wood for the trees, especially if you know he used
a length of two-by-four to force those striking dark blue structures
into the mix. He also changed the date, from fifty-three
to fifty-two so do we also think his calendar was wrong?
There's some debate
on who may or may-not
have painted it—or at least
'helped' in the process—
as several friends
in several states
of drunkenness
seem to have played
with paint and sticks
and blasting tubes
that evening when
this canvas was begun
but any of them
deny doing any painting
and say that what they did
at most "prepared the canvas."
So it was him.
So what did he achieve? It is a forest and a fractal
(this latter just in retrospect.) There's such a sense of depth
you want to lean from side to side to see what is behind
the foreground detail. There's so much energy you cannot fail
to think the forest is exploding, swept up in some storm;
some Tunguska-style event as if a thing from outer-space
reached in
to paint a canvas
a human could not
entirely, and certainly
viewing on a tiny
hand held device
I suspect I can't.
Oh I can zoom
and pan around
but ironically can't view
it upside-down
as he most surely did
walking round it on
the studio floor
but he must have known which way up it was going to be. Weeks
he spent on this: on the floor, on the wall, with that length of two-by-four—
to which I already alluded—and he must have known precisely
the effect he wanted to get as in the topmost layers of paint
experts see he carefully painted out a single line
or thinned another by a few percent. He drank you know?
Drank himself to death
There's broken glass
toward the lower right.

1 comment:

  1. The conversational tone really works well - you've made me want to look at the picture more closely. Thanks for drawing attention to it.