Oil on canvas
113 × 88.5 cm. (44 ½ × 34 ⅔ in.)
Signed and dated (lower left): "Pol Mara 55"
Further information:By the 1950's, the excitement of the post-war period was growing, and the fragmentary counterculture of the Beat Generation (1944-1964) was followed by the full-blown revolution of the globalized counterculture of the 1960s (1964-1974) The counterculture youth of the 1960s rejected the cultural standards of their parents, particularly regarding racial segregation, the Vietnam War, sexual mores, women's rights and materialism. From this social climate emerged Pol Mara, a Belgian painter, illustrator, lithographer and cultural ambassador. Born Leopold Leysen he is better known by his moniker, an acronym which stood for "Pour Oublier Laideur. Métamorphoses, Amour, Rêve, Amitié." ("To forget ugliness. Metamorphosis, love, dreams, friendship").
The Cold War between capitalist and communist states led to a disillusionment with, and distrust of post-war governments, which in turn meant that many young people feared that America's nuclear arms race with the Soviet Union, coupled with its involvement in Vietnam, would lead to a nuclear holocaust. Thus, for the Beat Generation of the 1950s there was a general opposition to the military-industrial machine civilisation. Pol Mara's work is grounded in the ethos of this and the next decade, and through his art he sought to reveal how he perceived the world around him, often finding artistic inspiration in unlikely places. Pol Mara's positive reaction towards what could otherwise be seen as the ugliness and mundanity of everyday life is expressed through his art, as well as his name. Pol Mara's work from the 1940s and 1950s, such as the present painting, represents a sort of figurative symbolism that reveals his ability to renew everyday industrial forms into something which touches the viewer on a deeper, almost primal, level. Indeed, his work from this period was influenced by early modernists such as Paul Klee and Yves Tanguy and it seems to provoke a subconcious reaction similar to the art of the Surrealists.
In challenging the normative approach to the aesthetics of modernity and industry, Pol Mara's artwork has both a hallucinatory and revelatory quality that asks viewers to re-appraise their idea of the world around them.