“I will begin at the end: from the drawings concepts have evolved, a plastic theory that returns to the drawings. These drawings show an infinite number of aspects of the world, they show an infinite number of aspects of topics, but I have tried to arrange them so that those concepts (that is, shamanistic concepts) that harken back, all these backward harkening constellations, are arranged so that formally they can awaken interest in the current consciousness of the viewer so that he becomes interested in a general view of man and time, not only presently, not only looking back historically, anthropologically, but also offering aspects for the future, offering solutions by way of an opening of problems.” (J. BEUYS,quoted in Thinking is Form, The Drawings of Joseph Beuys, exh. cat. New York, 1993, p. 111)
With a palpable explosion of brushstrokes drafted upon a stark white surface, Pol (1962) is a spirited example of Joseph Beuys’ early works on paper that form the cornerstone of his diverse and experimental practice. Through an assemblage of loose quasi-geometric forms, Beuys implies the shape of a 1960s battery rendered in tones of sanguine red, black and caramel brown. Beuys’s drawings are born of a mixture of rational and instinctual thought. In keeping with his wider oeuvre, the drawing is conceptually rather than aesthetically grounded. The battery’s brown hue, which Beuys has coined ‘Brankreuz’ is borrowed from a common brown floor paint incorporated so as not to detract from the work’s ideological foundations. Beuys’ choice of subject matter underscores his interest in the convergence of art and science, exploring notions of cyclical generation. The work’s title, Pol, which translates to ‘pole’, references the chaotic energy transmuted by the battery into poles of positive and negative electrodes. Beuys’ artistic perspective was informed by his belief that the world is a constellation of polarized forces - a notion that reappears throughout his oeuvre. In his later works, Beuys articulates this concept by assembling his compositions from contradictory raw materials - batteries, electricity and wire cables are positioned against animal fat, felt and stone. The present work represents an early statement of this theme. ‘My drawings make a kind of reservoir that I can get important capsules from’, he explains. ‘In other words they’re a kind of basic source material that I can draw from again and again’ (J. Beuys, quoted in A. Seymour, ‘The Drawings of Joseph Beuys’, in Joseph Beuys Drawings, exh. cat., City Art Galleries, Leeds, 1983, p. 8). Beuys’s Pol is a refined investigatory rendering of the primal, transformative properties of energy that dictate the world around us.