Among many things, my dad is an artist. We’ve bonded over our love of painters for years now, trading stories of museum visits (I’m still jealous of his trip to the Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh), and discussing ideas and composition. Dad’s painting more and more at present – his workshop, formally festooned with power tools and equipment, is now stocked with paintbrushes and biscuit-joiners (he also makes his own frames). I was fortunate enough to commission a piece last year – following a cover version he made of The Night Café, I asked him to recreate one of my favourite Van Gogh’s (The Yellow House) from the postcard facsimile I brought back from Amsterdam. Both now hang on my wall.
We also share a long-running love of Jackson Pollock. Years ago, we went so far as to make our own action painting, standing side by side dripping paint over the canvas. It quickly took pride of place in the living room. Contemplating ways to decorate my soon-to-be daughter’s room, I thought a similar work, painted by her father and grandfather, would be a perfect addition. It’s a way of passing the baton, initiating her into our cult from a young age. And what kid doesn’t like a Pollock (or a well-intentioned knock-off)? It’s a style that fires the imagination, that has something interesting and different in every corner, that could be a forest, or a map, or a galaxy, all three and more, at the same time.
The result now hangs above the crib. Our only concession to its setting was the palette – bright but soft, like melted ice-cream. We christened it Gold Poles (though Icy Poles might be more apt), and it reminded me of this recollection I wrote in 2008 after a visit to the NGA:
Pollock remains my guy. Or our guy. He’s our man on the inside, who somehow slipped past all the phonies and hustlers, and now he’s up on the wall. I’ve loved his paintings for so long I thought it might have been something I’d grow out of, like getting an undercut or the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle soundtrack. But no, he’s still the Shit. Even at the NGA there is so much wank – you’d be forgiven for thinking half their collection was made by that girl in high school with the chipped black nail polish and a dream journal. But turning the corner and seeing Blue Poles still jolts.
“Expressive spontaneity as a means of bypassing the constraints of Western tradition”. Whatever. The fact is Pollock is no bullshit, zero pretension. He’s not being clever, there are no riddles. There’s no irony. There is nothing in his work that makes you feel dumb for not getting it. There’s nothing to get. It needs no explanation, it just stuns. It’s pure velocity.