Jackson Pollock

I am interested in the absract expressionists.  Particularly  the art of Jackson Pollock. Lee Krasner, his wife as well, they are an amazing tragic pair.  I am making this post to collate some posts I’ve made related to him and to have a place to add reflections and links.  Here is a link to Wikipedia about the Blue Poles – the feature image above (a detail below). Jackson Pollock in Wikipedia.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Paul Jackson Pollock (January 28, 1912 – August 11, 1956) was an American painter and a major figure in the abstract expressionist movement. He was widely noticed for his “drip technique” of pouring or splashing liquid household paint onto a horizontal surface, enabling him to view and paint his canvases from all angles. It was also called all-over painting and action painting, since he covered the entire canvas and used the force of his whole body to paint, often in a frenetic dancing style. This extreme form of abstraction divided the critics: some praised the immediacy of the creation, while others derided the random effects. In 2016, Pollock’s painting titled Number 17A was reported to have fetched US$200 million in a private purchase.



This site has the background & the paintings.

Copied one from 42


I loved the movie starring directed by Ed Harris. The higlight is seeing Hassis enact Pollock at work. The photo (below is the actual Pollock at work.
From a note in the Auckland Art Gallery

more from the Auckland Gallery:

Have you ever heard Jackson Pollock’s voice or seen him painting?

Hans Namuth and Paul Falkenberg made their film Jackson Pollock in 1951. When Namuth arrived at the artist’s studio he recalled that ‘A dripping wet canvas covered the entire floor. Blinding shafts of sunlight hit the wet canvas, making its surface hard to see. There was complete silence… Pollock looked at the painting. Then unexpectedly, he picked up can and paintbrush and started to move around the canvas. It was as if he suddenly realized the painting was not finished. His movements, slow at first, gradually became faster and more dancelike as he flung black, white and rust-colored paint onto the canvas… He completely forgot that Lee [Krasner] and I were there; he did not seem to hear the click of the camera shutter… My photography session lasted as long as he kept painting, perhaps half an hour. In all that time, Pollock did not stop. How could one keep up this level of activity? Finally, he said “This is it”.’

Here is a short excerpt from Namuth’s and Falkenberg’s fine film (dead link, but here is the whole BBC doco) where Pollock says ‘I want to express my feelings rather than illustrate them. Technique is just a means at arriving at a statement.’

Progressive or reactionary?

John Berger on Pollock 

And perhaps here we have come to something like an answer to my original question. If a talented artist cannot see or think beyond the decadence of the culture to which he belongs, if the situation is as extreme as ours, his talent will only reveal negatively but unusually vividly the nature and extent of that decadence. His talent will reveal, in other words, how it itself has been wasted.

Berger, John (2014-09-07T22:58:59). Selected Essays of John Berger. Bloomsbury Publishing. Kindle Edition.


Berger credits Pollock  with talent, but criticises him for not commenting on the decadence.  Meditate on this: Pollock, is not commenting on anything, because he is too busy being who he is. He is… expressing. In that sense he might be the forerunner of a me generation, but forerunner is the wrong word, it’s been a me generation for centuries.  There are other contradictions at play. This is the weird thing about abstract expressionism, which is not socialist, and even individualist, but at the same time something that emerged out of a culture that was counter to the decadence. To ‘do’ is different than to ‘illustrate’. And that is progressive. Pollock, in his very hurtfulness was also a victim as an outsider of a culture that violated his being. That is easy to overlook as that very society drops bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I can see him as making art while emprisoned. If that is true then it is true of Lee Krassner even more so.

Pollock Confidential

love this graphic novel.  Takes the perspective that the CIA funded Pollock.  Seems true.  Does not diminish my take on Pollock, just goes to show how weird the world is.  Like his art…  a weirdness in the world. 

Engaging the Muse ANZPA_Journal_17_art07

In a psychodrama article where I mention Pollock I credit him with spontaneity. Not sure if I mention it in the paper, but spontaneity includes vitality, flexibility, originality and creativity.

More Pollock


Going West 1934 – 35


Number 1A, 1948


Tachisme or Abstraction lyrique

I quite like ‘isms’. Got a new one today reading John Berger’s essay on Jackson Pollock (See also this post on Pollock):

Pollock was highly talented. Some may be surprised by this. We have seen the consequences of Pollock’s now famous innovations – thousands of Tachiste and Action canvases crudely and arbitrarily covered and ‘attacked’ with paint.

Berger, John (2014-09-07T22:58:59). Selected Essays of John Berger . Bloomsbury Publishing. Kindle Edition.

There it is: Tachiste.
Continue reading “Tachisme or Abstraction lyrique”

Revolutionary Art

Statements and actions for a cause or revolutionary change are needed, but not art.  Art can be revolutionary even while its creators are reactionary in their words.  Art is art because it expresses something of the unconscious.

I make politically trivial sketches, Thousand Sketches, (Like the image above) but I think they are ok, even somewhat progressive.  I think it is because they are steps on a path into my own unconscious and that is the collective ethos, zeitgeist, at the same time.   I don’t know how deep I go.  I let the pen do the work, stuff comes  unbidden, I trust my life has its roots in the culture and thus something of the culture will emerge.

It is a struggle not to judge it as crap. It is as a result of my scribbling that I discovered an affinity with the abstract expressionists, who do not rank high on the political awareness scale, but I think their roots (check out Mark Toby) in calligraphy and the spontaneity of the body (Pollock’s dance as he paints) may be a way to tune into zeitgeist.  It had to do that or it would not even have been capable of being exploited by the art world.

Pollock’s statement “I am nature” makes sense to me.  He does not need to look at the world and then paint it, he is nature.  Social and political dimensions don’t need to be painted from the outside, they will emerge… with luck through spontaneity, ie the absence of fear and judgement.  They will not be pure expressions of one class, art is too specific for that. Art is a slice of time & specific contradictions under a microscope, a probe into what is going on.  The interpretation of the data is important, but before interpretation is possible it has to be mined.

These thoughts came up well before finishing this item on Reading the Maps:

Reading the Maps: Alan Brunton and the dream of a revolutionary art:

In a country where the Greens are considered a far left party, and where socialism is presently regarded as an alien political tradition, how can any coherent political programme hope to be popular, or even comprehensible, without being, from a radical left-wing perspective, ‘cowardly’? And in a country where large numbers of people still expect poetry to rhyme, and still consider any visual art movement more recent than Impressionism to be an elitist fraud, how can any self-respecting artist disavow incomprehensibility? Could, say, Colin McCahon or Rita Angus have created their masterpieces without daring to be, for a large segment of the population, incomprehensible?