KYSO Flash
Knock-Your-Socks-Off Art and Literature
Issue 6: Fall 2016
Tanka Prose: 429 words

Hans Hofmann’s Yellow Burst

by Charles D. Tarlton

Yellow Burst, 1956, oil on canvas (Seattle Art Museum, 2014)

...Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

—William Wordsworth [from “The Daffodils”]


The structure of fragmentation grenades is such that when the explosive contained in them detonates, small pieces of metal fly out with great force, flying out and out on the wind, unchained, unrestrained, freed from the constraints of adhesion, the pieces having come unstuck, searching...these painted rectangles escaping the surface of the canvas, coming away, ready to fly.

they are all layered
though painted on the same plane
and seem one above
the other. They almost slide
around. They are things like birds

making yellow things
in every kind of yellow
lemons, daffodils 
honey clouds that billow up
something orange in the middle

as if each one were
spread out on a separate
window of clear glass
all psychedelic meanings
visual in three dimensions


It is often claimed that impasto lends to a canvas the illusion of a third dimension because the paint rises up from the surface, as elevations do on a relief map, in heaps and little mountains. But, the irony is just this: the thicker you lay on the paint, the more you pile it up with a palette knife, and emphasize its thickness, the more you reinforce the flatness of the canvas’s surface. The thicker it is, in fact, the more it is recognizable as—paint.

here are several rules
about the art of painting
the first one is: you
view it from the right distance
and, second; take it all in

this painting shows you
how when stacking layers of paint
the colors, orange and red
on blue, just make it clearer
there is something behind it

I have been wanting
to take part in discussions
but on my own terms
of painting. There is a lore
but I am skipping past it


The artist has entitled this in reference to the colors—Yellow Burst—and there is for a fact lots of yellow in it. But governed entirely by that Phoenician abjad of red-orange that anchors our eye, then sends us down to the red rectangle in the lower left and, only then, into the yellows (because there are more than one). The blues are something of a mystery.

does the brain govern
the eye or the other way
around? Can you look
wherever you determine
or is where you look ordained?

looking at landscapes
the eye picks up natural
clues, the river flows
the elm trees lean in the wind
give us the plot to follow

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