A leading member of the group of painters emerging under the influence of Abstract Expressionism in the 1950s, Mitchell's paintings are marked by a spirit of heightened passion and spontaneity where long strokes swoop across the canvas, twist and tangle with drips and splatters and terminate in thick globs of paint. There is a precarious equilibrium between explosion and containment which unifies the diffusing mass of raw energy in this work. Broad, robust strokes of vivid and deep colors concentrated at the center are played against delicate trailing lines of shimmering whites and high-keyed tones that dart inward from the thinly painted and stained surrounding areas. A trellis-like effect on the surface keeps the interaction between figure and ground always lively and fluid. The result is an ambivalence of affinity and conflict.
With its thick tangles of skeins and bold splatters and drips of fluid paint, even this most lyrical painting has an air of ferocity. Mitchell herself viewed the works from this period as "very violent and angry," associating them with the events of her life in the early 1960s, particularly the death of her father in 1963 (J. Bernstock, Joan Mitchell, New York, 1988, p. 60). Yet anger gives way to somberness in the foreboding mass that dominates the center of this painting. The centralized, squarish area of greens and blues built of dense impastos stands out prominently against a light ground of soft, pale washes enlivened with delicate, flowing lines. Despite the unreliability of biography as a means to elucidate the work of art, it cannot be altogether avoided, although it must certainly be severed from the naive notion of direct causality. Anger may be repressed, it may be expressed, and it may even be transform into its opposite into a pictorial construction that suggests to the viewer a sense of calm, joy or elegance. Mitchell's paintings are always mediated.
Like Mitchell's loaded brushstrokes of other periods, the dense mass of paint-in parts loosely but always carefully brushed-in the center of this ambitiously scaled canvas possesses a strong sense of paint as a physical material. Mitchell is a "painter's painter" (M. Tucker, Joan Mitchell,exh, cat., Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 1974, p. 6), always concerned with the act of painting and with the physicality and sumptuousness of her pigment. Throughout her life, Mitchell aspired to an understanding of the making of art. She transformed the gestural painterliness of Abstract Expressionism into a vocabulary that was exclusively her own. Hers was a mastery of color inseparable from the movement of light and paint. And this is, consequently, a work in constant vibration, electric, always alive and ever new.