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Monday, 08 June 2015
By Simon Withers, Artist and Gallery Assistant


Pollock began to write the number five in the lower quadrant of the canvas. For whatever reason he abandoned this particular number and added what looks like a couple of inverted commas. He writes the number again, he tips in the year 1952, then signs the canvas…the signature appears to be written with a thick marker pen, the signature seems awkward…constricted.  


At what point was this particular painting monogramed…and with the autographing of the painting was Pollock signing off a ‘finished’ canvas or simply authenticating his efforts?


By 1952 Pollock had consciously tried to move away from his accustomed style, yet within this painting he appeared to be returning to more familiar territories, the poring of paint over the surface using tools such as glass basting syringes. Over the top of this black canvas he applies a tangled mesh of poured curves and lines, each score seeming to be marking or slashed at the black template beneath. Pollock returned further into his past. He picks up a brush, loads it with paint and commences to add a number of large slabs of colour on to the black painting - the miasma of his former painting vocabulary comes to bear upon this laboured canvas. 


Only a few years previous the porings had lyricism and the painter ‘bopped’ above the surface, he worked with calmness, sobriety and sensitivity. Now conceivably lacking confidence and self-assurance, Pollock may have realised that his energies were spent. Could he ever convince himself that he could draw and paint, or that he could ‘do black’ like Kline?


Pollock continues to set upon the canvas; ’I have no fear of making changes, destroying the image…because the painting has a life of it’s own’. The tension increases as he wrestles between the figure and the ground, between abstraction and representation, between content and technique. The canvas is on the floor; dense black paint is clumsily poured over the bulk of the yellow, white and red slabs. The poured line seem to interlink these blocks of colour. Are they being pulled out of the image by a hook-like form that protrudes out of the bottommost edge of the canvas? Or are these skeins being pulled into a whirlpool, a centrifuge towards the midpoint of the canvas? The qualities of these lines in contrast to the first painting are somewhat crude by comparison. It is possible this painting was reworked over a period of time. 


Pollock up righted the canvas, and taking hold of a thick brush, plunged it into a can of clotting black paint. It is possible that the paint he uses was old stock, even the dregs from the bottom of the can. Finally he cuts to a swathe of paint in the upper-middle of the painting. Loading up the brush once more Pollock daubs the center of canvas with a dark slick, the gesture is determined to signify the effort of the man and his current density. Is it by the hand of the same man?


The slick is beginning to drip; in his final gesture a delicate vermilion wound is positioned close to the center…all is is finished.






In 1961 the painting now known as 'Yellow Islands’ was then titled simply ‘Painting’. The provenance of the work is that Painting went directly from Pollock’s estate to the Tate, via Marlborough Fine Art, London. Marlborough had a show* of Pollock’s work (including “Yellow Islands”) in 1961, which is the year the Friends of the Tate purchased it.


*Jackson Pollock: Paintings, Drawings & Watercolors from the collection of Lee Krasner. June 1961


Simon Withers is an Artist and Gallery Assistant based in Nottingham. 



Posted by btimmins at 16:30    COMMENTS
Tuesday, 12 May 2015
By John Newling
With an introduction by John Leighton, Visitor Services Manager

Here at Nottingham Contemporary we are proud to call Nottingham artist John Newling a friend. Our 2011 film of John discussing the Miracle Tree project has gained over 50,000 views on You Tube.

John has exhibited with us twice, initially with the growing of the original Moringa tree in our study in 2011, and the major exhibition of his work in 2013.

John popped in last week to present us with a copy of his latest book, ‘The Lemon Tree and Me’, a limited edition account of a project from 2009, which John talks about below. The book will be available to view in our study and while stocks last, available to buy directly from John.

'In late 2007 I was invited to be the first recipient of an international residency program at ‘The Collection’ Lincoln.

I was Artist in Residence at The Collection Studio from January to April 2008. In 2009 I installed The Noah Laboratory at the collection. The Noah Laboratory was the final production process and installation of the project initiated during the residency. Over the course of a month the gallery formed the central distribution hub and recycling point for a newspaper containing the images and writings generated from the residency and, through the installation, endeavoured to transform the newspapers into soil. This was the practical and conceptual completion of 'The Noah Laboratory' and brought it fully to a public audience both through the paper and the processes of the installation. It created a cartographic dialogue between the sites and events of the residency.

Subsequent to the completion of the installation I decided to test the constructed soil by growing a tree or plant in the soil. I chose a lemon tree as the subject of this work. 

So began the Lemon Tree and Me, a project that developed over 688 days of learning and reflection.

The Lemon Tree and Me is an account of an intense period of time between March 2009 and February 2011. It records the relationship between The Lemon Tree & Me; a relationship of meaning and materiality that constructed, cultivated and reviewed a poetics of responsibility. It was a relationship that advocated an intelligent ecology based on values that are immanent in the complex workings of nature. Between ethics, ecology and aesthetics The Lemon Tree & Me finds a new ground in a generative programme of intensive care to influence our responsibilities as gardeners of the public domain.

It is text that has informed many of my recent and current works.  I am very pleased to be able to share it with you through this publication.'

The Lemon Tree and Me (Tuesday 24th March 2009 - Wednesday 9th February 2011); a working from life; a love song; sung for 688 days.


Posted by btimmins at 10:55    COMMENTS


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