Sunday, May 26, 2013

The Action Painters and the art of Jackson Pollock

The Action Painters are also known as the Abstract Expressionists. Jackson Pollock was probably the most famous of this group. He was born in 1912 in Wyoming. The youngest of five brothers, he was a needy child who craved attention. Pollock's father was an abusive alcoholic, leaving the family when Jackson was only eight years old. Charles Pollock, Jackson's older brother, became his mentor and father figure. Charles himself was a talented artist, and considered the best in the family. At the age of eighteen, Jackson moved to New York, where Charles Pollock lived. Jackson began to study art with Charles' art teacher, Thomas Hart Benton.

It was not until after the Depression that Jackson Pollock met painter Lee Krasner, and the two eventually married. Both were influential on each other's style.

The painting below is one of Jackson's drip paintings, and it is massive in scale. I like it for its organised randomness, the placement of colour against colour, and the s subtle choice of colours. The greens against the greys against the strident black lines. The splodges of orange, the grey-green, the pattern in chaos. It has the look of a map, the detail within is absolutely intricate.

Pollock was one of the founders of the now infamous 'Action Painters"  He rejected the more traditional tools of painting such as brush and easel, in favour of large scale, unstretched canvas (nailed to the floor) and sticks and knives. Pollock liked to be physically in his paintings, and he walked around and onto the canvas, using house paint. His whole body was involved in creating the works, and he would swirl and  drip on the paint on and around his canvasses The art critics of his time nicknamed him 'Jack The ?Dripper". Jackson pioneered the drip method of painting, and it defines both him and his work. The paint was flicked, smeared, dripped onto the canvas.

He was very influenced by American Indian art, and it has been argued that this can be seen in his works. Pollock was interested in the mural as genre, he saw this as the way of the future. He considered easel art to be dead. His large mural works were in response to this.

Pollock hardly ever stretched canvas onto frames. He preferred the rigid surface of the floor. He liked to feel as though he was in the paintings, which was something that the American Indians also did. Pollock believed In painting from the unconscious, and he did not like to make small studies first. He painted from intuition more than anyone school of thought. He had a direct approach and worked fast. Pollock was quoted as saying that when he painted he was not aware of what he was doing.

Pollock's infamous drip paintings are about both freedom and expression. He shunned the traditional methods of mark making and found a completely new way to make a painting. He has been often copied and his works although not popular at the time he made them, are now considered to be modern classics.

I love Pollock's work. It has such an immediacy and inventiveness. The paintings are very physical. For me, my response is that I can see the hand of Pollock in the works, he has left more than just a trace of himself. What a wonderful vision Pollock had, and what a valuable legacy he has left behind.

When I study a Pollock painting, I feel both involved and inspired. (still in progress, I need to name and acknowledge sources and pics below!)

"Jack the Dripper"

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