Round About Canberra + Blue Poles

Posting has been a little light lately as I have jumped in the car and just kept driving. I’m about 5 hours south from home and am freezing. I’m in the Australian Capital Territory, in the city of Canberra to see Jackson Pollock’s Blue Poles: Number 11 from 1952 at the National Gallery of Australia.

Jackson Pollock Blue Poles PaintingIt was bought by the Australian government in 1973 for $2 million USD and created a lot of controversy at the time. If the much smaller and much less impressive No. 5, 1948 painting was sold by David Geffen in 2006 for $140 million, Blue Poles would easily be worth $150 million today.. even in a financial crisis. I rarely ever put a money value on art when I’m in a gallery, but for Blue Poles I’ll make an exception.

Also, I find it funny that a city filled with politicians is based around circles. You can drive around and around and not really get anywhere.. just as politicians go around and around and never really get anywhere. See what I mean on Google maps.

My next stop may be Melbourne.. then maybe Tasmania.. but I’m taking each day as it comes and seeing where the wind blows me. A big gust of wind could even pick me up and take me to London or New York. You just never know what’s around the corner when you’re a paper bag blowing in the wind.

About Dion

Australian artist and observer of things.. all kinds of things. I like a wide variety of art, from the weird and wonderful to the bold and beautiful.. and everything in between.


  1. Forget London and New York. Any tramp can wander to those dumps. The cool culture vulture place to be in May is definately Norfolk. (Thats the real Norfolk – the one with the broads – in the UK – not the colonial ones across the sea)

    Why? Well it’s all about Artists and OPEN STUDIOS – there are hundreds of them with all kinds of art ranging from crappy Jacksandbollocks look alikes to some really good stuff.

    One artist has a very interesting event on the 16th May 2pm – 4pm called Pictures and Cakes. Turn up look at the pictures and eat a cake. Sounds sweet and and a change from gallaries pouring wine down throats trying to get people pissed enough to agree to part with a couple of million for a ruined canvas they had thrown up on. But please watch out as you would not be the first aussie to be conned in this way as many in the city of Canberra know only too well!

    Try and get some funding from the city of Canberra to come to Norfolk to buy a painting or two to make up for the damage done to the eyes of the good people of that city by bollocks blue poles. You only need a few thousand – not millions but please try and stay sober as there are unscupulous artists who will sell you a bag of your own vomit and tell you its art if you get drunk enough (if you don’t believe me just visit the Tate modern and see what drunken curators have chucked up there)

    Now with a couple of grand in your pocket head for Norfolk – eat a cake and view the work of Norfolk’s wonderful figurative artist – yes you’ve guessed it…. Nicola Slattery. See the painting Chasing the Dove… an image the UN should adopt for their peace keeping trucks around the world… or wonder what the heck is going on in Sisters with Fish. Hope to see you on the 16th – (ps I’ll be the one being thrown out for demanding fine wine).

  2. How did you like it, Dionysus? Pollock is really hit and miss, the big ones at MoMA I dont care for at all, they have no substance, and weak in color and intwining relationships. Blue Poles looks incredible, how is it in person? I have seen great Pollocks too. MoCA had one, but a woman wrote me and thins they “deaccessioned” it undercover to pay for all their parties,she used to work there and told me some incredible stories about directors pissing in bottles in storage, and other craziness. Wasting monies left and right, artistes really have no sense, except one of entitlement.

    Abstraction is always a dead end, either one must change completely, or become just a decorator, because abstraction without purpose is just wallpaper. Often real nice wallpaper, but about decoration and giving ambiance to a room. Some exists, but its a very limited language that quickly runs out of things to say. Pollock had, so was switching to a weird black pseudo surrealism when he died, not very good either.

    This is unlike Cezanne, who died at the hieght of his power, its the last 15 years up to is death about 66 that he truly became great. He had secured a rep among a few artists with his very ballanced and classical works during the 1880s, but its when he they was freed up to his passions and instinct with the control he had gained, that he became the Father of Modern art. And Pollock and most AbEx types claimed his watercolors as a chief influence, they are fantastic.

    You are out cruising your continent, I am stuck today in a huge space with 24 other artists, having to “sell” my work, most large paintings upto 10′, some are damn good, had them rolled up for over a decade and hadnt seen em. Sold the smaller ones, but hard to dump the big guys. Mostly partiers last night, it was packed, but need to get some serious spenders in today. i need the cash. Dont we all.

    have fun. And dont drink and drive, Dionysus.

  3. Anonymous says:

    “Abstraction is always a dead end, either one must change completely, or become just a decorator, because abstraction without purpose is just wallpaper.”
    What do you mean without purpose here?

  4. All true creative art has purpose, or isn’t art at all. In the case of abstract without an emotional, spiritual, mankind defining purpose it becomes just waves of pretty color, wallpaper. Often much better than silly games and exhibitionism of contemporary arts, though it is also if meant to be self expressive, therapy, and a show, like Mathieu.

    Pollock never called his stuff action painting, thats a dumb critics term, its was never meant to be seen as a recording of “feeling” or self expression. It was attaching to the universe, a spiritual thing. But seldom do abstract artists ever grow much once they have created their own abstract visual language. There are some that are great and continue to evolved, slowly, but their styles in their solumn monumentality call for it, like Soulages. Klein attempted to by changing to color, but just got weaker, he had run out of ways to say anything in his style. It can become a trap.

    Thats why figurative always gives ways to do more, to abstract FROM real objects, and create new ways to say it. Guys like Jasper Johns and his hatchings become just a marketing tool, a signature, a style to be marketed. Figurative artists certanly do this too, Dubuffet turned to a similar hatching style and boring after his great art brut of the 50s. Leger got dull and became a professional painter, not a creative one. Most artists do eventually, few can maintain creativity over an entire lifetime, one falls back on the tried and true as one losses vitality. Just is. Nothing wrong with it, but if looking strictly for true creative arts, one cannot get stuck on any one painter, we all create crap, tons of it.

    My work is mostly abstractions FROM reality, but the things are always there, just takes time to see them in one style, corporeal but stylized in another, and geometerized into a woven pattern in another. And a new more expresive style now, one more obvious, but still tied together as one. I can use many different chords of color to set my emotion, abstract usually is set in a certain set of color patterns, few use a changing emotional color pallette.

    Unless it is decorative, calming, pleasing, sensual, but really design, not creative art. Thats fine, I like much of it, its just not what we put into museums,the creative spiritual arts about mankinds essence, and gods creation, of the natural world we live in and he has created.

    Thats what Pollock created, a cosmos, an energy giving forth life and matter, a big bang or “intelligent design”. But not our intelligence, Mans version is always stupid, we are a very limited creature, far from all powerful, as our current economic collapse based on vanity should prove to all. Pollock created works that give off energy, not just flat things on the wall, when successful.

    Abstract art is difficult to do this, especially for very long. His work is powerful, 99.9% of abstract art is peaceful, serene, calming wallpaper, or screaming look at me exhibitionsim. Thats not art, its design, and thereapy. And just plain bad acting when truly “action” painting.

    art collegia delenda est

  5. Dan Howitt says:

    “Often much better than silly games and exhibitionism of contemporary arts, though it is also if meant to be self expressive, therapy, and a show, like Mathieu.”

    Similar thinking among my friends here, we were just in Brooklyn meeting and had a similar talk.
    Dan Howitt

  6. bollocks!

  7. Earl, if I’m in the UK I’ll pop into Norfolk. And i think THIS Banksy dove should be used for UN trucks.

    Donald, the Blue Poles painting wasn’t as good as it was in my I built it up a bit before I saw it. It’s an interesting painting though. I even set the sensor alarm off because I got too close to It was smaller than I expected too. It couldnt compete with the Anselm Kiefer painting that they have though, which is one of the best hung paintings I have seen. The room it hangs in is perfect for the work.. wonderful stuff.

    Also, the best art has always been decorative, before and after abstraction. I’m not saying they have to be pretty decorations, but they have to hang/sit well and appeal to the taste of someone out there.

    The act creating them is usually spiritual, depending on how the artist approaches his/her work, but that doesn’t mean the finished product isn’t decorative.

    Congrats on the sales too. You need to embrace your inner Jeff Koons Donald. You’ll still have a soul after learning how to sell your stuff like coca cola. Make things shinier and more controversial if you have to, just sell, sell, sell.. lol

    Most of my favorite abstract painters tired of the theme and moved on to figurative art, which is always a brave move to stop producing a product that sells well. Philip Guston is an example. I love his abstract paintings.

  8. Too bad about the Pollock. Though i have always found I need to see great works at least three times on different occasions, in different moods, to feel if they are truly great. If so, they get better with each viewing. If OK, they work once and then lose interest upon second viewing. if realy good, will still interest, but not have emotional impact the third time. If still powerful, and seeing new things and feeling fresh and alive, then you got the proverbial “masterpiece”. At major shows, like the Gauguin retrospective in Chicago, or van gogsh in NYC, or the two cezanne watercolor rooms, they confirm greatness, and even enhance in person, especially with collected works.

    And yeah, most abstract painters eventualy go back to figurative, even if abstracted, de Kooning certainly did right away, really never was abstract at all. Diebenkorn the same way, his Ocean Park series all taken from building, sky and awnings in the Santa Monica area he was living in. COBRA was abstact but most of the School of Paris was Braque influenced and abstractions, not seperately formed from nothing.

    And yes, most great painting is decorative, but that is only one of its qualities, and does not rely on it. Almost all French painting is, colorists always decorative, and Braque, Matisse, Gauguin, and Bonnard among my very favorite painters. I am more French in feeling, though most feel a strong African influence to.

    Probably from all the hard core jazz i have listened too since 15. And the very mixed cultural existence in the LBC I grew up with, though it most certainly is Not an art town, but getting there with our excellent MoLAA, and soon to be Oceanic Museum. We seem to raise our kids to be porfessional athletes, from Billy Jean King to Tony Gwynn to more pro football players thahn any other city, especially at Poly HS where they all went, as did my dumb ass younger son who threw it all away, and now bumbing around junior college.

    Like Gauguin, I simply love using browns as skin tones, far better than pasty whites and pinks. Makes for much better tonal and chromatic richness. I use white and black as colors, not tints or absence of color. Soulages did this with black, and I find his work far more powerful than guys like Motherwell, who did the same composition over and over, and other highly overrated American painters. Just because we came out on top after WWII doesnt mean we were the best in everything. We often are just great at importing it, or like the British before us, stealing it.

    Had a great birthday, wife took me to a fancy hotel in Dana Point overlooking the ocean, and bought me great CDs from The Isley Bros to Miles Davis,In A Silent Way, 3 CD set i have been wanting for awhile. A wallet, nice dress shirt and tie I have been needing, and an incredibly beautiful sport coat. With my wedding suit, I am now set for life, and officially a clothes horse. She and the woman at Umberto’s, a fantastic mens store here in Long Beach with incredible prices, hooked me up. Damn i look good, in nice Italian cloth.

    Thanks for the “old man” comment, my email filled with such “good” wishes. I have been too busy to get down about it, and now look forward to a much more rewarding, if quieter, second half century. Come on by, and I will show you LA. Huge place, 12 Million in the area, spaced over an area bigger than some Oceanic countries.

    art collegia delenda est

    ps. Did see that Kiefer at a huge show of his work here at LACMA in the late 80s, thats why he impressed me so much, so powerful in person, and truly a Modern artist. Uses the entire surface, and fulfills my three requirements of creative art. Defines mankind, his people and all of humanity, explores nature, fields of turned earth and broken growth, searches for god, and cries when the absence of it leads to mans unrestrained evil.

  9. Like the Banksy dove, the damn teenagers here could use some vests, all want to be gangstas and Snoop Dogg wannabes. Snoop was never really a gangsta, a friend of mine who was a bodyguard for Death Row records, remembers seeing Calvin bagging groceries right before his first
    CD came out. Entertainment is all about illusion. Art is supposed to be somethng else, but unfortunately, decided not to be anymore.

    I do kinda prefer Braque birds, especially the ones on the ceiling of the Etruscan room at the Louvre.

  10. Brown as a skin tone would have to be more of a challenge. I havent tried it, but imagine that you would have to think about the background more.

    In a book at home there’s a portrait by Euan Uglow of a black person which is really nice. It’s a profile on a black background and really works well. I would scan it but I’m not at home ;-)

    Sounds like your wife spoils you too. I have never received that much for a birthday :-P

    Anyway, Im off to explore some Melbourne art. I have to get used to wearing a scarf too as the weather drops as you head South in Australia. brrrrr..

  11. As a modernist there is no background. I create work that has its own life and has nothing to do with capturing reality, a thing, or person. We are all made of the same stuff, wood, metal, skin and bones. Air, water, and stone. A fire rages in each and everyone of us, from frog to tree, even to rock. The forces that keep us together, that bind us, that repel others.

    My subject is but a motif, something to build around, a starting point that will put me on the road to triggering the emotion I felt to start the work in the first place. The window or towel or sink is no less the subject than the woman drying her fine brown skin, even if it is my wife. And that glorifies her even more, for the work takes on its own fire, its own internal energy, its own logic and world for her to rule, not as dictator but enchantress. A Goddess.

    Stay warm, and lay off the wine til you get where you are going Dionysus. Party in moderation, at least til you are at your destination. We got a few thousand extra brain cells to lose, if the wine and women are worth it. :)

  12. Polluck, being a household name (as far as artists are household names) is definitely bankable even if (had I the money) I wouldn’t ever buy it. I think it’s value is only in relation to art history, and (despite the price these items may go for) so then his non-drip paintings are less valuable. how did you experience his painting other than financial guessing?

    I liked your analogy about the going in circles and politicians. So true!

  13. Youre getting rather poetic in your descriptions Donald. And yeah, I think you have to know your subject or you just become a camera.

    And the god of wine hasnt touched wine since his last hangover a couple of weeks It was the strange combination of wine and bourbon that did it to me.

    Katanville.. the Jackson Pollock painting was nice, but I built it up in my head to be a much bigger and better painting than it actually was. If I didnt go to the gallery with such high expectations I would have loved the painting more than I did. Im still glad that I saw it and I sat with it for a while so it must have been good. I almost run past paintings that I dont like.

  14. The word wine seems to go hand in hand with galleries,i suspect the comments on this page have been amplified due to the over indulgence of said substance.By all means accept the free wine,look at the art,go home sober up and then purchase if you like it,but above all sober up before adding a blog!

  15. I don’t need wine to mess up a blog post Mark, I can do that all by myself, sober as a judge.


  1. [...] Australia was outraged at paying $1 million for a Jackson pollock in the 70s, I can’t imagine the controversy of paying $35 million for a Wassily Kandinsky painting [...]

  2. [...] while I’m in Canberra and say hello to DeKooning’s ugly Woman V, Pollock’s big Blue Poles, an Anselm Kiefer, and Freud’s tribute to [...]

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