Some of it's Thick

Jackson Pollock, Tate Gallery, 1999

The veneration of Pollock has become an article of faith. Until seeing this sizeable retrospective, I might have joined in the adulation. However, my immediate impression was of a devotee of the Absolute Surrealists - Masson especially. A teacher’s pet who managed to vividly pastiche. I hadn't been thinking about Pollock’s history – I was more involved in finding my way to the Tate from Pimlico tube without an A-Z – the canvases just shouted Masson, maybe Miro, certainly Arshile Gorky and Picasso. They seem dissatisfied, incomplete, overworked.

The anonymous foundation which co-funded the show was perhaps yet again the CIA, which supported Pollock's original fame with extensive grants. There is no love of paint here. Coming straight from Monet, whose paint is everything in its delicate velocity, the clumping of enamels is cloying. Again, Monet's facture seems so steady and assured in comparison. How could Pollock call a picture Arabesque when it is so clumsy compared to Monet's perfect oval strokes? I was reminded of Searle or Steadman. Not their incision or insight, but some kind of spidery nightmare. The horror to which they point. An edifice of hype-on-hype with the ashamed, half-drunk Pollock nodding, painfully aware of the apology he owes: that this is none of it Picasso.

Whilst there a mother asked her 6 or 7 year old: have you looked at this close up? The sage child responded, with absolute perception: yeh, some of it’s thick (pause) and some of it isn’t.

March 2004