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Artist research

Artist research Jackson Pollock

Abstract expressionism

Art is not always about portraying a realistic image.

Art can carry a message and provoke thoughts and feelings; this is what Abstract Expressionism, in my opinion, is about. It is not always about looking pretty, it makes you the viewer delve deeper beyond the paint itself. These pieces have a life of their own. Painting and mark making offers multiple ways of exploring ideas through its application. It allows freedom of expression by the process of application. Since early cave paintings humans have found an inbuilt creative outlet through visual language which has evolved over time, growing, and expanding throughout known history.

Jackson Pollocks abstract expressionist action paintings have a language in the mark making. An energy which transforms the lines into rhythmic forms which seem to charge across the canvas. He reduces colour, shapes, and line away from any narrative or realist situations. Using the paint to convey pure emotion, distinctive and stimulating using the language of colour and line to play a role in the unconscious. His personal expression is inseparable from the concept of action painting which insisted on the very act of painting, as well as the physical gestures of the mark making process. His work conveys a message of freedom.

Since my first experience of a Jackson Pollock painting in 1999, when his work was honoured with large-scale retrospective at The Tate in London. I attended the exhibition with my mother, who absolutely hated the anger and passion she saw in his work, she left the gallery. I on the other hand felt physically moved by the freedom and passion in his paintings. I admire his spiritual approach to nature and am intrigued by the Jungian psychology, which influenced him in his work.

“I always knew that I was two persons. One was the son of my parents…the other was…old…mistrustful, remote from the world of men, but close to nature, the earth, the sun, the moon…all living creatures…and above all close to the night, to dreams, and to whatever “God” worked directly in him.” – C. G. Jung (Memories, Dream, and Reflections, pp. 44-45)

What Jung called his #1 personality lives in a “real” world of day-to-day concerns, and his #2 personality accesses the vastness of the unconscious, what Jungians call the Self. For life to be complete and grounded we need both personalities. As a child we play and easily access our imaginal, magical powers. By the time we reach adulthood, we often hide “our truth” and we “do things that we don’t want to do to please others.”

The trick to reclaiming our imaginal powers is to turn all of life into play, so that every day feels magical. If you are walking through life but not really awake, just going through the motions, and keeping up with other people’s expectations of how you should live.

“The spirit of the depths forced me to speak to my soul, to call upon her as a living and self-existing being. I had to become aware that I had lost my soul.” — C. G. Jung (The Red Book, p. 233)

You do not need to sleep to dream. Daydreams speak to us like night dreams if we are willing to listen. A bush in full flower or a pile of rubbish may strike a chord of meaning for you.

What is the first thing that catches your eye as you start your day? Are there “meaningful coincidences” or synchronicities that present themselves causing you to pause in your day? Synchronicities happen every day! The more you pay attention to dreams and synchronicities of life, the greater the bounty.

Looking at his practice from the early works which seem more primitive and colourful. the idea of the act of painting as an intense physical process appeals to me. As in his painting “she wolf” where he manages the essence of the wolf and her power and place in the natural world.

It is how I wish to aspire to paint in my practice.

In 1937 Pollock began psychiatric treatment for alcoholism, and he suffered a nervous breakdown in 1938, which caused him to be institutionalized for about four months. After these experiences, his work became semiabstract and showed the assimilation of motifs from the modern Spanish artists Pablo Picasso and Joan Miró, as well as the Mexican muralist José Clemente Orozco. Jungian symbolism and the Surrealist exploration of the unconscious also influenced his works of this period; indeed, from 1939 through 1941 he was in treatment with two successive Jungian psychoanalysts who used Pollock’s drawings in the therapy sessions. Characteristic paintings from this period include Bird (c. 1941), Male and Female (c. 1942), and Guardians of the Secret (1943).Britannica

The She-Wolf by Jackson Pollock

The She-Wolf is a painting produced by Jackson Pollock in 1943. This painting was featured in Pollock’s first solo exhibition at an Art of This Century gallery in New York in 1943.

The dimension of this painting is 106.4 x 170.2 cm.

Pollock’s Birth is shot through with primeval energy. The process of birth is seen as a desperate struggle. The mask-like faces, drawn from Inuit and Native American art, lend the image an unrestrained energy. Like many modernist artists, Pollock was fascinated by ‘primitive’ art for its expression of fundamental human fears and desires, particularly as traditional ideas of ‘civilization’ were tainted by Europe’s slide into fascism and war. (Gallery label, March 2007)

Summertime Number 9A by Jackson Pollock

Summertime: Number 9A is a painting produced by Jackson Pollock in 1948. The rhythms in this painting reflect his belief that ‘The modern artist is working and expressing an inner world. The dimension of this painting is 848 x 5550 mm.

Regardless of the critic’s viewpoints on that subject, irrespective of the rational definitions of art, the Abstract Expressionists achieved Tolstoy’s ideal and went beyond it to an extent where it helped the viewers to explore thought-provoking ideas about religion, time, space, popular culture, and more. The art of this time changed the art world forever and affected it like no other movement had done before. To really appreciate and understand the work, I think the history of the time and the artists themselves need to be considered. The term Abstract expressionism is used to describe the group of artists who lived and worked in the United States of America during the years of 1939 to 1945, following the Second World War. It was the first American art movement which affected the course of international modern art. For centuries, Paris had been the centre of the world’s artists, dealers, and collectors, but in the 1940’s abstract expressionism placed America in centre stage. Swiftly, Abstract Expressionism made New York the centre of the art world.

Number 1A, 1948, oil and enamel on canvas by Jackson Pollock, 1948; in the Museum of Modern Art, New York City. 172.7 × 264.2 cm

While the style of “drip” painting has become synonymous with the name Jackson Pollock, here the artist has autographed the work even more directly, with several handprints found at the composition’s upper right.

“Sometimes I use a brush but often prefer using a stick. Sometimes I pour the paint straight out of the can. I like to use a dripping, fluid paint.” Working on the floor in a spacious converted barn on Long Island, Pollock moved away from traditional artist’s oil paints and embraced lower viscosity commercial enamel paints. The fluidity of this paint allowed him to directly capture the movements of his entire body over the canvas. Around the same time, Pollock stopped giving his paintings evocative titles and began instead to number them. His wife, artist Lee Krasner, later explained, “Numbers are neutral. They make people look at a painting for what it is—pure painting.”

In 1947 Jackson Pollock arrived at a new mode of working that brought him international fame. This direct, physical engagement with his materials welcomed gravity, velocity, and improvisation into the artistic process, and allowed line and colour to stand alone, functioning entirely independently of form. These works, which came to be known as “drip paintings,” present less a picture than a record of the fluid properties of paint itself. Though self-reflexive in nature, they readily inspire larger interpretations; the explosive, all over expanses of Number 1A, 1948 (1948) and One: Number 31, 1950 (1950) can be seen as registering a moment in time marked by both the thrill of space exploration and the threat of global atomic destruction.

During the Cold War, Pollock’s paintings, and those of his Abstract Expressionist peers, including Mark Rothko, Franz Kline, and Willem de Kooning, were promoted, in exhibitions toured abroad by MoMA’s International Council, as emblems of the freedoms fostered under liberal democracy. Pollock was employed by the WPA Federal Art Project in the fall of 1935 as an easel painter. This position gave him economic security during the remaining years of the Great Depression as well as an opportunity to develop his art.

Going West Jackson Pollock Oil on gesso on composition board – National Museum of American Art, Washington, D.C.

During the 1930s, Jackson Pollock was strongly influenced by the American Regionalism of his mentor Thomas Hart Benton, (1889-1975), under whom Pollock had studied at the New York Art Students League. This image of a pioneer journeying West connects Pollock’s emerging style to his own origins. While the scene evokes a sort of gothic mystery, it has been suggested that it comes from a family photo of a bridge in Cody, Wyoming, where Pollock was born. Going West is characterized by a dark, almost mystical quality similar to another American visionary painter Pollock admired, Albert Pinkham Ryder. The swirling forms which structure the image evoke the emotional intensity of El Greco and Van Gogh. Pollock increasingly incorporated such factors into his own work as a means to express the changing experiences of life in modern America.

Albert Pinkham Ryder Moonlight

Ryder completed fewer than two hundred paintings, nearly all of which were created before 1900. He rarely signed and never dated his paintings. While the works of many of Ryder’s contemporaries were partly or mostly forgotten through much of the 20th century, Ryder’s artistic reputation has remained largely intact owing to his unique and forward-looking style. Artists whose work was influenced by Ryder include Marsden Hartley, who befriended him, and Jackson Pollock. Ryder used his materials liberally and with little regard for sound technical procedures. His paintings, which he often worked on for ten years or more, were built up of layers of paint, resin, and varnish applied on top of each other. He would often paint into wet varnish or apply a layer of fast-drying paint over a layer of slow-drying paint. He incorporated unconventional materials, such as candle wax, bitumen, and non-drying oils, into his paintings. By these means, Ryder achieved a luminosity that his contemporaries admired, his works seemed to “glow with an inner radiance, like some minerals” but the result was short-lived. Paintings by Ryder remain unstable and become much darker over time; they develop wide fissures, do not fully dry even after decades, and sometimes completely disintegrate. Many of Ryder’s paintings deteriorated significantly even during his lifetime, and he tried to restore them in his later years. Because of this, and because some Ryder paintings were completed or reworked by others after his death, many Ryder paintings appear vastly different today than they did when first created.

Action painting

Rosenberg first used the term “action painting” in the essay “American Action Painters,” published in the December 1952 issue of ART news. Harold Rosenberg

Rosenberg modelled the term “action painting” on his intimate knowledge of Willem de Kooning’s working process. His essay, “The American Action Painters,” brought into focus the paramount concern of de Kooning, Pollock, and Kline in particular, with the act of painting. For the action painter the canvas was not a representation but an extension of the mind itself, in which the artist thought by changing the surface with his or her brush. Rosenberg saw the artist’s task as a heroic exploration of the most profound issues of personal identity and experience in relation to the large questions of the human condition. Rosenberg, Harold (December 1952). “The American Action Painters”. Art News. 51.

References: Kaprow, Allan. “The Legacy of Jackson Pollock,” Art News vol. 57 no. 6 (October 1958): 24–26; 55–57. Varnedoe, Kirk, and Pepe Karmel, eds. Jackson Pollock: New Approaches. New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 1999: 10 Woodman, M., Dickson, E. (1997). Dancing in the flames: The dark goddess in the transformation of consciousness. Boston, MA: Shambhala Publications. Jung, C. G. (1963). Memories, dreams, and reflections. New York: Random House. Moss, R. (2011). Active dreaming: Journeying beyond self-limitation to a life of wild freedom. Novato, CA: New World Library. Roberts, Norma J., ed. (1988), The American Collections, Columbus Museum of Art, p. 20, ISBN 0-8109-1811-0 Loan exhibition of the works of Albert P. Ryder, New York, March 11 to April 14, MCMXVIII, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1918 Albert Pinkham Ryder, on Metropolitan Museum of Art Collection Database See, e.g. Craven, Thomas (December 1927). “An American Master”. The American Mercury. pp. 490–497. Ludington, Townsend (1992). Marsden Hartley: The Biography of an American Artist. Cornell University Press. pp. 62, 63. ISBN 0801485800. Naifeh, Steven; Smith, Gregory White (1989). Jackson Pollock: An American Saga. Clarkson N. Potter, Inc. pp. 250–251, 254. ISBN 0-517-56084-4. Mayer, Lance, and Gay Myers (2013). American Painters on Technique: 1860–1945. Los Angeles, CA: J. Paul Getty Museum. p. 91. ISBN 1606061356.

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