Comments on: Reappraising Pollock Abstract Critical is a not-for profit company aiming to establish a new critical context for all generations of artists involved with ambitious abstract art. Sun, 09 Nov 2014 17:23:33 +0000 hourly 1 By: Sam Tue, 06 Aug 2013 15:39:17 +0000 I read this over the weekend:

Nothing very exciting is achieved by ‘action painting’ or ‘automatic writing’. ‘Detachment’ is also easy to understand. These methods of painting or writing make short work of all the problems that arise when one is looking for something truly different. We are talking about ‘technique’, a word that in itself suggests a way of “cutting” a Gordian knot, because technique, conscious thought, and unconscious thought are all ways of thinking that are mistaken for thought itself.

Of immediate concern to us is a painted or written language that does not leave us indifferent, not the knowledge that it is conscious or unconscious, spontaneous or deliberate. The level on which some oppositions become meaningful may be as scientific as you like, but I can’t accept that… There are things done spontaneously that have no grace, and carefully thought out things that do. This doesn’t depend on the chance that always seems to come along when one believes in it.

Magritte, letter to Maurice Repin, 1958

By: Noela Mon, 05 Aug 2013 09:18:24 +0000 Yes I get it. Maybe working in the abstract , in art as well as music , as in improvised and structured jazz , allows many more opportunities for inspired spontaneity .

By: Robin Greenwood Fri, 02 Aug 2013 20:41:34 +0000 ‘I assure you,’ he [Degas] liked to say, ‘no art was ever less spontaneous than mine.’

What’s good enough for Degas…

By: Noela Mon, 29 Jul 2013 12:12:40 +0000 I like the idea of a spontaneous motorcycle ! I felt the point was more that the impulse was the spontaneous element which could then be assessed and either used or redirected etc.
I imagine the more trained and accomplished a person is in their medium the more effective their spontaneous actions are, possibly.

By: John Bunker Mon, 29 Jul 2013 11:20:28 +0000 It is worth remembering though that ‘spontaneity’ also has a political and cultural history.
It was seen as a way of avoiding or confronting what was perceived as instrumentalist, rationalist, Capitalist or Stalinist cultural hegemony. It was an idea courted by artists and other groups interested in questioning the values of the dominant cultures. (Pollock included!)In this respect making sense is not the be all and end all of communicating ideas. Making a ‘spontaneous motorcycle’ might just be the appropriate gesture at certain points in history. I think this is one of the most difficult aspects of Pollock’s legacy.

I think we can say that the ‘unconscious’ can no longer be worshiped as the font of all creative knowledge or the answer to all creative, personal/social issues. But neither are Pollock’s most venerated paintings purely ‘optical’- as some, for a long time, would have liked us to believe.

By: Robin Greenwood Sun, 28 Jul 2013 22:34:11 +0000 Then again, here is Steven Poole reviewing a Terry Eagleton book:
“Fabrication is the name of the game. All airs of spontaneity… have to be carefully fabricated by their authors. Truly ‘spontaneous’ writing must be that to which the author has given no thought at all, and so which is certain to be rubbish… All writing is a machine for the delivery of a time-delayed and space-shifted performance. The more spontaneous has been the machine’s assembly, the less reliable will be its functioning. One should trust ‘spontaneous’ writing just as much as a spontaneously knocked-together motorcycle.”

So then we should have need to separate an ‘effect’ of spontaneity in the finished work of art – the painting, the writing, the dance – from the activity undertaken by the artist in its creation, spontaneous or otherwise. A dancer’s performance may, through the application of great control, discipline and self-awareness, give an illusion of spontaneous action all the more convincing for its complete and calculated control.

By: Noela Sat, 27 Jul 2013 10:22:51 +0000 This post really hits the key points of creating art and can probably be applied to writing music or words.

By: Robin Greenwood Thu, 25 Jul 2013 22:15:11 +0000 Despite thinking I may well be temperamentally debarred from the ‘romantic Modernist camp’ (sounds like a gay boy-scouts’ jamboree), I cannot help but see that self-awareness and spontaneity are not only NOT mutually exclusive, but are both essentials in the repertoire of any ambitious artist. Irwin Shure’s comment on the Pete Hoida article picked me up for trying to pre-empt ‘a way forward for abstraction’, asking whether any artist succeeds by talking about it before doing it. Well, I’m pretty sure that there is no revolution/evolution in art that takes place without a lot of premeditation and outright conscious ambition. And I’m pretty sure that any abstract artist who relies wholly upon an unconscious ‘sleepwalking’ spontaneity for his/her performance in the studio will end up as a dead loss. Of course. It is a big part of the pretence of modernism now, and has been for forty or so years, that spontaneous creativity is somehow sufficient in its own right, particularly for painters (try it with a welder and cutting torch). But on its own, it’s as academic as any other approach. How, after all, can you ‘progress’ spontaneity? Left to itself, spontaneity will just repeat itself as habit.

But I also think that it is an impossibility to make abstract art without acting in an almost totally spontaneous fashion at (almost) all times in the studio. This is not a contradiction. I’ve written elsewhere that abstract art can ONLY be a discovery; in effect, a spontaneous ‘coming upon’ the content of the work after the passage of much thought and much activity. But if you cannot predict it, you can (and should) increase the chances of ambitious innovation taking place. You can only do that consciously. This hinges on the length of time spent, and number of, redirections, recapitulations, reprises, complete redoings of each and every single work in question at any one time. It’s pretty clear we cannot any longer simply mimic Pollock’s (protean) engagement with the unconscious – at least not in the parodical sense that popular culture now depicts it – and expect new art to emerge of any import.

This is key for me – ambitious new abstract art can only happen if you are prepared to overturn the results of one spontaneous action for another (better) one. Again and again. That takes any amount of self-awareness.

‘If rationality is suspect, what could be more suspect than phoney irrationalism, the worship of anti-form and aleatory cheese-parings and candle ends.’ I’m with you, Goukmeister, though I’ll pass on the jamboree.

By: Craig S. Stockwell Thu, 25 Jul 2013 14:23:01 +0000 Thoughtful and engaging but terribly marred by a pervasive grouchiness. This indicates a detached superiority rather than an engaged desire to wrestle in the mud.