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30Apr

Angela O’Keeffe on Jackson Pollock’s Blue Poles – and engaging with the art of awful men

The writer’s ingenious debut Night Blue is narrated by Australia’s most infamous and triumphant canvas: Blue Poles

It’s closing-in on half a century since Gough Whitlam approved the purchase of Blue Poles, the painting that divided Australia. Spend an hour people-watching at the foot of Pollock’s canvas, and you’ll hear visitor after visitor come and tell the painting exactly what they think of it. “Do you know how much they paid for that thing?” an old bloke strides across the room to tell me, voice a-thunder. “1.3 million, love. 1.3 million!” You can sense the outrage brewing, the roiling incredulity. He shakes his head as he stares into the expressionist tangle. “What a fucken’ bargain.”

What if the painting were listening? And not just to our bombastic opinions, but to our quiet agonies. What might it think of us?

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