Abstract Expressionism: A Poetic Response


I went to see the Abstract Expressionism exhibition that is currently showing at the Royal Academy of Arts. I find art exhibitions great for putting musings into perspective, and I have a particular love for abstract works because they offer something that bit more open to interpretation. Out of habit perhaps, I take a sketchbook with me. It’s what I was taught to do in art class, but I never really understood what I was supposed to be drawing. You see, my art is depictions of things that are inside, never objects from the exterior world, and I struggle to feel creative when sketching from life. But I do want to get that response down, that raw inspiration and mental illumination that happens when I react to a piece of artwork. So this time I spontaneously decided to make a written response to what I was seeing, and I did this without reading the accompanying information bites until afterwards to prevent my thoughts being influenced by ‘what you are supposed to think’. Here are some of the things I wrote.


Jackson Pollock, in general, makes me feel white noise.
I think I see words
People and creatures
But on inspection, there are none
It is a live demonstration of the mind
And how it tries to make sense out of disorder
Trying to calibrate
Trying to find recognisable symbols
But when it can’t, it experiences a foreboding depth
A sensation of falling through dimensions
Spiderwebs and strings
There is no safety from chaos
No respite
From falling through life
Trying to find something to cling to
Trying to get a grip
But it is all so loose
Like the grip on the paintbrush
Controlled yet uncontrolled movements
Mirroring more and more layers of randomness
Even the trappings of the strokes are not certain
We are not safe in assuming any such thing
As comfort
And then suddenly
Ravens’ wings
The flight path of the birds of mort
If we take a step back
To look at the pattern as a whole
We can see that there is in fact repetition of motifs
Just like in music
The harmony of life
It is impossible to understand
The detail and the big picture at the same time
They hold conflicting messages
That are nevertheless knitted together
By our cognition and the nature of paradox

Existential Chapel

Rothko in a dimly lit 8-sided room
A low hum, imagined or real
An array of soulful feelings
Vibrations of essence and energy
In different configurations
But there is no God here
This is an existential chapel
Buildings that hold so many
Make us feel so small
Humble to the magnitude
Of what we can achieve in numbers
But then we are shut up indoors
With only a narrow window
That is higher than us
We have been enclosed
For a long time
Yet we don’t find it
Or negative
Or worthy of resent
It is just the way
We look across an expanse
To a distant horizon
It is an immeasurable distance
The journey
Will be hard and dry
But that’s ok
As long as there is hope
The sun has gone
Down on the world
But still we exist
In the chapel

Abandoned Mindspace

Robert Motherwell
New York City Collage
Just like the dreams of electric heaters
In run down areas
Where fictional Grandparents live
And then the upstairs room
That was to become my mindspace
Dusty and unloved
With dated fabric and stale light
Creation that was full of spirit long ago
But is now lost and torn and forgotten
The creator is back
In its own complete consciousness
All of this looks alien to it now
A project from its experimental student days
Naïve and laughable
Laughable to be stuck and see no exit
Trapped in a stifling flat
Made by society
That blocks the light
And the waves of the soul


Paints all in black
Which is hypnotic
And comforting
And perfect
And I see
It is the ideas themselves
That are beautiful
To me

But that is all
Just a love affair
With oneself
A trip
Through the internal
Hall of mirrors
For every idea
You experience
Differently to me
Even the idea
Of black

As you may have guessed, I got so much more out of my trip to the exhibition from writing down my stream of consciousness instead of trying to draw something. It really highlighted the subjectivity of art enjoyment for me. There were the paintings, and then there were my memories recent and old, my existing connections between pieces of information and symbols. And when these things connected, a new feeling was created like an electrical spark.

And that is why Abstract Expressionism is the best exhibition I have been to.

6 thoughts on “Abstract Expressionism: A Poetic Response

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