In George Barber’s AUTOMOTIVE ACTION PAINTING a man arrives in a van by the side of a road. He takes out various pots of paint and starts to throw colour on the road.
Cars soon turn up and drive through the paint. AUTOMOTIVE ACTION PAINTING is a performance piece and a conceptual work.
Before conceiving the work, the artist had been fascinated by Jackson Pollock. In thinking the work through AUTOMOTIVE ACTION PAINTING slowly became an ironic comment on Abstract Expressionism. The video ultimately shows that a gesture signalling emotion and passion can be created by people simply driving to work. ‘Ordinary people’ driving cars engage with colour and become as ‘passionate’ and as wild as Jackson. Throwing paint then is not necessarily a sign of freedom, passion, individuality or expression. And again it is standard in art history to read these qualities into Jackson’s swirls and drips. Yet cars achieve much the same in Automotive Action Painting – though the driver has no idea where the paint is going or what it looks like.
Yet the cars in the end do produce a very lush ‘action’ canvas. And it is a pleasure to see it an Automotive Action Painting coming into being.
Pollock, at his wildest, threw whole buckets of paint – and again these are classically interpreted as signs of passion – yet a bucket can be thrown with much the same visual effect by a completely relaxed person with not much regard for the UK highway code.
Thus, unintentionally, commuters make an ‘emotional’ painting with their cars though they are feeling – as far as we know quite normal as they drive through the paint.