Friday, October 09, 2009

Paper tiger

One of Phil Clairmont’s most treasured possessions – one that followed him from studio to studio – was a beaten-up copy of a 1949 Life magazine. This particular issue published 60 years and a couple of months ago, featured the abstract expressionist painter Jackson Pollock in an article asking the question, “Is he the greatest living painter in the United States?” For Clairmont the article was a talisman of the possibility of contemporary art being endorsed by the popular media, and through it reaching a wider audience. If it could work for Pollock, it had a chance to work in New Zealand. Phil’s copy was tattered and spattered with paint because it was usually somewhere in the middle of the studio. Now, thanks to Google books, what we think of as Phil’s issue (8 August 1949) and every other one is available here You can search by date or cover and then click to look at every page.

This digital miracle aside, it’s likely that Phil would still cling to the physicality of ink on paper to call up the spirit of Pollock into his workplace.