A survey of recent abstract paintings and works on paper by this acclaimed Scottish artist. Our exhibition will be the first formal presentation of Fred's work in our London gallery, and is supported by a new introductory text by Sam Cornish. For more information on the artist, the artworks or the exhibition, please contact Jamie Anderson on 020 7734 7800 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org
The paintings Fred Pollock has made since the 1980s are characterized by strong, clear colour. Primaries, secondaries and tertiaries are decisively and inventively organised, in dynamic and vibrant relation to each other. The handling is direct, un-virtuosic, almost disarmingly straight-forward. At first glance they appear as colour-wheels thrown into kaleidoscopic, turbulent motion. A longer look reveals a firmly fixed pictorial architecture, with complex activity underpinned by positional certainty. As their underlying strength becomes more apparent, their colour deepens and broadens. Unexpected subtleties are revealed in the wake of a dramatic initial impact. These paintings almost inevitably contain hints of nature, of the light and space of the visible world. Yet compared to his peers Alan Gouk or John Hoyland, Pollock’s vision is more resolutely self-contained, more obsessively concerned with the creation of expressive, powerful and affecting abstract images.
Still working at the age of 84, Pollock’s feel for crisply defined painterly energy remains undiminished. The recent paintings tend towards smaller basic units, built into complex, often choppy rhythms, fragmentary in their parts but tightly coherent as wholes. The looping cascade of “Oranya, 2021” is a striking case-in-point. Broader bands and smaller stabs of colour are engaged in a dance of thrust and counter-thrust. From these emerge multi-directional, multi-dimensional configurations that in turn describe an entire, untranslatable world of light, space and colour.
The development of Pollock’s painting was determined by looking across the Atlantic, although he has only visited the US on a single occasion. As critic Clement Greenberg noted, Pollock recognised the power and quality of mid-century and post-war American painting, and its influence can be seen across his art. In the 1970s he was drawn to the Post-Painterly abstraction of Jules Olitski, Kenneth Noland or Jack Bush; and before them the Abstract Expressionists Clyfford Still, Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko. The American-German Hans Hofmann is perhaps the single most important painter in Pollock’s pantheon, as he was for many British artists of his generation. Seeing Hofmann’s work in reproduction as a student at Glasgow School of Art was ‘an absolute knock-out, you never could have dreamt anything like that from the environment we were in; and it was then that we realised that this was where we wanted to get to.’
I have a hunch it might be just as fruitful to compare Pollock to modernists outside this immediate transatlantic circle. Why not think about his single-minded but various abstractions as multi-coloured counterpoints to Pierre Soulages explorations into the possibilities of black? Or why not see his combination of turbulence and structural strength – and an evident love of Vincent Van Gogh – in relation to Bram Bogart’s monumental paintings? Further afield how might his love of painterly drama sit alongside the Japanese artist Kazuo Shiraga? I think Pollock’s ambition and achievement could well withstand all these comparisons, and many other besides. But however they are considered, I have often thought they would be beautiful things to live with, their complexities changing over time and in different lights, a constant yet ever-developing Here and Now.
Sam Cornish, October 2021
(Writer & curator)