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“Blue Poles: Number 11” is one of the most famous artworks of the American artist Jackson Pollock. It was painted in 1952 and has an overall size of 488.9 x 212.9 cm and was worth millions ($1.3 millions) when the National Gallery of Australia decided to buy it and add it to their collection.
The work is one of Pollock’s typical abstract expressionist drip paintings. It was made like most of his artworks with the canvas put horizontally on the floor, and the mix of oil and industrial paint added to the canvas by using any type of object, such as knives, sticks, basting syringes and hardened brushes.
The painting has been made progressively. This means that, after the canvas being primed in black, Pollock used different paints and applied them in layers, or strata of paint with different densities so that the artist could give an extra dimension to the painting. This is why there are visible layers of aluminium paint being put on top of other layers of oil paint and being submerged by other layers of paint.
This is what can be called an “action painting”. This is because the curvy shapes of the composition, which reveals to be very texturized and detailed from both close or long distance, are a continuous flow of paint which directly follow the impressions and intentions of the artist and resemble serpentine forms. In this artwork, Pollock has only put some different coloured paints on a black canvas, mainly, but the movements, almost as spasms, used to make this unique painting are the main feature of this painting. The way the artist has used his tools have created an intricate and chaotic composition which cannot be replicated. This shows that the art work is somehow visionary, as Pollock has fully developed the expression of abstract art by pushing himself beyond the need to replicate the aesthetic and morals of reality, making “Blue Poles: Number 11” a work of its own as it is intimate to the artist’s perception of the work as it developed.
The colours used vary, but generally the most noticeable ones are plain yellow, orange, white (aluminium paint) and blue. The colours are not blended by choice, as the artist has only benefited from the force of gravity to let the paint drip. Therefore the colours are applied singularly in layers without getting shade or tones of different colours. The paint is applied randomly as Pollock felt, therefore there are thinner, thicker, shorter, longer lines of colours and there are brighter, darker, thicker or thinner layers of paint. The colours used have also a function. The colours used in the background seem to diffuse and disperse when the focus of the viewer is directed to the “blue poles”, almost distracting the attention from the intricate mixture of lines from a close view. The blue is a contrasting and dominant colour in the composition, whereas the high amount of aluminium paint is used to smooth the look of the bright yellows and orange helping the focus of the viewer to be directed toward the blue lines. This makes the composition very centralised even though there is a lack of any logic or order within the artwork.
Image Credits: http://www.jackson-pollock.org/images/paintings/blue-poles.jpg