1950 by Jackson Pollock
Pollack’s work is one of those rare paintings that somehow translates its awesomeness to the miniature size of a postcard. Art of course never down-sizes well, least of all gives you a good sense of scale, but looking at Number 31 you can tell that this painting is massive. It does indeed stretch a wall’s length; mural-like it holds the viewer in awe as they stand back admiring its size, detail and audacity. The sheer, seemingly random, detail is absorbing: paint scattered across canvas in mindless splatters, splodges as big as you hands, and spray that cascades as fine as hairs. Lines throw our view this way and that, up, down and around; we are carried through the painting, across the composition, and with each viewing taken a different way. The unruliness of the articulation buzzes like energy, fuelling the paint, giving it a movement so strong it appears almost as an animation, the busy-ness of static on television. Colour is monotone, the tonal dilution of a black and white photograph gone wild. Each black, white and grey has broken free from a subtle fading of tone; the colours dart individually across the image, free from each other and any compositional constraint. It is easy, when standing in front of one of Pollack’s canvases, to see what all the fuss was (and is) about.