Jackson Pollock is most famous for his abstract expressionist action paintings and was once described as a ‘bearded shock trooper of modern painting’. He’s one of the figures most associated with what became known as ‘modern art’ and his paint-spattered canvases still have the power to shock us. We take a brief look at the man, his life and his work.
“Painting is self discovery”
Paul Jackson Pollock was born in 1912 in Wyoming, USA, the youngest of five sons. After an itinerant childhood, he moved to New York when he was 17 to study under Thomas Benton at the Art Students League. At the time he became heavily influenced by both Benton and Albert Ryder’s allegorical style as well as the mural painters of Mexico and an emerging young artist called Pablo Picasso.
Between 1938 and 1942 he was employed by the Federal Art Project which allowed him to experiment in order to find his artistic voice. His developing style often included violent or sexual imagery which, it’s been suggested, was a result of his alcoholism.
He moved through a transitional style reminiscent of Kandinsky but it wasn’t until the early 1940s that he developed the abstract all-over style we most recognise today, which was dubbed Abstract Expressionism.
A large collection of Pollock’s work is housed in the Museum Of Modern Art (MOMA), New York. There are also many websites dedicated to his life and work, reflecting his importance in 20th century art. A particularly interesting and fun one is where you can create your own virtual Pollock in an interactive paint space.
“Technique is just a means of arriving at a statement”
Pollock’s most famous paintings evoke strong feelings in the viewer, with their use of texture and colour provoking us into a shocking sensory response. He laid his large canvases flat on the floor in preference to using an easel and dripped paint onto them, often combining the paint with sand or broken glass, and scratching into the surface to create textural sensations which challenge our preconceptions of traditional art.
This drip and splash style, he said, enabled him to become at one with the piece and for it to emerge from his unconsciousness – a method favoured by the Surrealists and their automatist theories. His ‘all over’ style negated the preference for a single point of perspective or focus within a piece and his canvases were often trimmed after completion to emphasise the lack of traditional composition.
“I continue to get further away from the usual painter’s tools”
Experimentation with texture, colour and abstraction, as is demonstrated in Pollocks’ work, is an excellent way for developing artists to use new media and techniques. Young people, in particular, enjoy the sensory input that smearing paint and sand, for example, brings. If you’re interested in trying it out for yourself, you’ll find all the materials you need at quality art suppliers such as Jackson’s Art Supplies. You can even order online – simply click here for more information.
Pollock’s unique style earned him the cruel nickname ‘Jack the Dripper’ and he was frequently ridiculed. His contribution to modern art, sadly, was only fully recognised after his untimely death in 1956 in a car accident.
Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/garlandcannon/5628860257/