After Pollock – Art Monthly article

In this month’s Art Monthly is an article entitled ‘After Pollock’.  It is an incredibly interesting article that fundamentally asks the question ‘is anyone interested in Pollock anymore?’.  Well I certainly am!  In a way the article answers its own question as it highlights three current exhibitions that examine the hidden processes of persuasion that surround Abstract Expressionism and those that wish to counter such rhetoric.

As I have a partner from the USA, I have a interest in American history and so found this article appealing on this level too.  It touches the politics of the cold war era and the role of artists in propaganda during the time but also the rebellion of artists against that too.  An interesting point raised is that some of the abstractness could have arisen from a fear of prosecution if artists were seen to be supporting communist ideals.  Therefore they painted in a much more ambiguous way with hidden meanings rather than direct ones.  It would be interesting to research if this is still the case in the current political climate, certainly with the likes of I, Daniel Blake it seems that people aren’t afraid of showing their political ideals through their work but I wonder if this is the case worldwide.


Art Monthly (402) ‘After Pollock’.  P5-8

Book review: ….isms Understanding Art by Stephen Little

This is another book I picked up in my local library as it seemed to be a much smaller, more manageable guide to all the different art movements than ‘Art the full story’.   The book itself is a smaller size and is only 159 pages long but still has some useful sections within it but is very much an introductory guide and does not cover anything in great detail.

The introduction is a particularly useful section for me as it talks about what an ‘ism’ is and what it is not. I didn’t realise until reading this section there were different types of ism: those which describe a trend within visual arts, those which describe a broader cultural trend, those which the artists define and those which are applied retrospectively.

As I had been looking at some work by Carl Andre I decided to focus on the section of the book entitled ‘Minimalism’.  Minimalism was used as a term by artists themselves in the 1960s to describe art that was highly simplified and austere.  It was influenced by abstract expressionist paintings like the work by Mark Rothko.  Minimalist sculpture often uses simple industrial materials like bricks, pipes etc and are composed of multiple uniform elements.  Key artists along with Andre are Eva Hesse, Sol Lewitt, Robert Rauchensberg and Robert Morris.  Minimalists use basic shapes like square tiles to envoke emotional responses, almost like the 3D version of abstract expressionism:


In summary, this was a useful little book to pick up from the library and it has made me think about how we define what ‘ism’ art falls under.  It has also got me questioning, what the point of all these labels are?  Does an artist set out by saying ‘ I am an abstract impressionist’, I highly doubt it, certainly in my case not.  I don’t feel like I have yet found my personal style and am still in the experimental stage of trying lots of new ideas out.



Little, S. …isms: Understanding Art (2004) London iqon.

Research – Abstract Expressionism

Working on the emotive marks exercises lead me to research how artists had used similar emotions in their works.  After conducting google searches and browsing through various articles I was lead to research abstract expressionism more.

Abstract expressionism was characterised by being expressive art of profound emotion and was around in the 1930s, 40s and 50s although the term was first used in 1919 by the German magazine ‘Der Strum’ to describe the non-representational abstract works of the German Expressionists.  In the 1940s the term was mainly applied to a group of artists working in New York and was part of the movement that led New York to become a leader in the world of art.

What particularly interests me about the movement is the link between the psychoanalytic ideas of Freud and Jung and the artists’ work.  Throughout the movement are strong links between the mind and art and as someone who has a mental health condition this is something I want to build upon in my own work as I progress through this course.

Key artists from this movement include: Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline and Hans Hofmann.

Artists like Willem de Kooning are interesting as his style emphasises the expression of the brush strokes themselves:


In Woman 1 (1950-52, oil on canvas, 193 cm x 147 cm, MOMA New York) this expressive brush stroke is emphasised clearly with strong, angry almost violent brush strokes evident.  There is a sense of urgency in the strokes and you get an image of him standing at the easel applying the paint in an angry rushed manner.  He was described as an ‘action’ painter and according to source she sought to undercover fundamental truths that resided in the unconscious mind.

The other style that countered action painting was ‘colour field painting’ and was typified by Mark Rothko.  The aim to fully immerse the viewer in a saturated field of colour.  This style also appeals greatly to me as I have always found great satisfaction in experimenting with colour and how it can produce emotions within people.  As a scientist, I find colour theory and production fascinating and through art I equally find it fascinating.

Mark Rothko’s Untitled (Black on Grey) (1970, acrylic on canvas, 203 cm x 176 cm, National Gallery of Art, Washington DC) fascinates me, again from a mental health perspective as well as an artistic one.


Rothko was a master of abandoning all recognisable imagery and focusing just on the use of colour as the only expressive media.  When you see Black on Grey you immediately think of dark thoughts, depression, bleak landscapes.  To me it reminds me of an alien environment with no hope for life surviving.  Having had severe depressive episodes myself I can empathise with this bleakness and hopelessness this painting expresses.

Both the use of colour and the use of expressive brush strokes are areas I want to explore further in my own work.

Sources of Information:

Book – ‘Art The Whole Story’ Edited by Stephen Farthing, 2010