The Deep – Jackson Pollock

Life can be pretty hard sometimes.  It really is a test on a person of how they deal with this time and show their true colours.  Some stick their head in the sand, some will plough on until they get through it, but some way or another most will see those hard times through and come out the other side of it.  It goes to show the strength of how we as people can deal with pressure, stress, heartache and pain.  Not everyone will rush out to demonstrate their feelings on what is happening within their heads during these times, as it can just feel like a mess of emotions, jumbled up and almost without any logical pattern or structure.

Abstract Expressionism can feel exactly like this on a canvas.  This is a term used to explain art which at first seems to have no logical structure or defined subject.  This is more about the expression of emotion from the artist.  How the colours, brush strokes and style makes the viewer feel.  For people who are not art fanatics, this can feel awkward, uncomposed and challenging as they are met with what can be deemed as a mess on the canvas (as my Dad described it once).  The movement, inspired from the ideals of surrealism, that art should come from the unconscious mind.

Jackson Pollock is one of the action painters of the movement.  This means that he worked in a improvised and spontaneous way.  Jackson’s technique was generally to place the canvas on the floor and “dance” around it, dripping or pouring paint, dragging it around with a large brush or a stick.  This means that Jackson was placing his pure impulse on to the canvas.

Abstract expressionism for me, is a bit hit and miss.  Mark Rothko was an abstract expressionist (although he didn’t like the label), but I have said in the past that I struggle to get on board with just the squares of colour.  For me it feels too controlled for this movement.  I personally prefer the action painters, such as Pollock or Willem De Kooning, simply because you can track their raw movements and feelings from the pieces as you view them.

Pollock, was deemed as a recluse, with a volatile personality, which really can be seen in his work. He did marry Lee Krasner, who became a long lasting influence on his work and his legacy.  Pollock was born in 1912, and died in 1956 at the age of 44.  He had struggled with alcoholism throughout his life and in December 1956 died in a single car accident where it he was driving while under the influence.

It seems a tragic end to a man who was able to express so freely his feelings through the medium of art.

“The Deep” feels like a highly spiritual piece by the artist.  The use of extensive white paint and the dark black void, only to be broken up by touches of yellow, gives the audience varying views of how the painting can be interpreted.  Some see this as a deep void, despairing and disonate.  Others see what they interpret as a deep cut in a dead body.  It can also be seen as hidden secrets, which become a dark matter under the surface, only to be glimpsed on occasions ( I have read many people’s interpretations of this painting and none quite sit right with me).

Personally, I see this slightly differently to how most interpret it, but that is the beauty of art… it is so subjective, especially in terms of abstract expressionism.  The painting makes me feel calm.  The white of the painting has an almost feather like texture, as though a feather pillow has been broken open.  The spots of yellow, the markings on the downy explosion. The black is a tear, almost like a rip in the fabric, but something more unknown.  It is neither foreboding or full of elation, it is simply something with infinite possibilities. It says to me that come what may, there is something more to what is happening to you right now.  It’s like a partially uncovered treasure, waiting to show its full self.

The painting was created with oil and enamel which is what gives the painting the differing textures, which makes this so attractively visual to its audience.  It is almost tactile with its varying surface textures, and I find I am drawn in to the heart and emotion of the piece so easily.

How do you see “The Deep”?  Why not tell me in the comments?  Like this post?  Why not share it?

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14 thoughts on “The Deep – Jackson Pollock

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  1. This is one of his very late pieces, if I remember right. And it’s a divergence from his earlier work, the main difference here being that is is more illusionistic. Instead of insisting on the surface of the painting, we are looking into it. It even has a photographic quality like a negative or X-ray.

    If you imagine it inverted (a negative of what looks like a negative), it’s hard to escape it being, well, reminiscent of a certain painting by Courbet, I think, “L’Origine du monde”. OK, it’s a vagina.

    Mostly likely, this new look is largely the consequence of working with a new medium, and it was about time. He was also moving back to figuration in the end.

    I think there’s a tragedy in the Abstract Expressionist movement and in Modern/Contemporary art in general where an artist is pigeonholed in a signature style, and as wild and exciting as Pollocks was — Ha, I agree with you about him and de Kooning — it was also extremely limited in what could be done with it.

    Some artists, like Picasso, or even Hockney, are NOT restrained in this way, but market pressures (the need to brand a product for consumers) often compel artists to restrict themselves to hammering out the same thing over and over. And when the art theory that propped up the Ab Exes imploded, all of their art sunk with it. Several end up suicides, and Pollocks reckless demise doesn’t fall far behind.

    I suppose there’s a fine line between uber success and sheer tragedy for artists.An over-inflated balloon pops easily.

    I think Pollock had a lot of skill, talent, and imagination. It would have been interesting to see where he would have taken his art if he’d lived, and this one is suggests he would have evolved in good ways.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re right this was done only a few years before he died. Lol I don’t see a vagina… even if I look at it in the negative, but I’m not a man and I’m sure if it was phallic shaped I would probably feel differently.
      You’re right, of course, sometimes artistic egos find it hard to change their style to suit the ever changing popular art demographic which can (depending on the personality) lead to a dramatic juncture in their lives. Regardless, certain genres will have a limited life span, and I think, Abstract Expressionisms is one of those movements 😊

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      1. Yes, I think you are right that its heyday was short-lived, as in recent times art is seen as a progression of isms, one replacing the other and rendering it moribund. But outside of that artificial context, I rather think Abstract Expressionism is here today, even if it’s glory days are over. Like Impressionism, it just has so many good things going for it that it can always produce solid paintings. One could say the same thing about Heavy Metal, I guess.

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      2. Heavy metal isn’t dead 😂😂😂 it’s just laying dormant. I jest. I think genres actually come around in cycles a bit like fashion. We see new artists defining and developing movements of the past daily, some work, some don’t. Personally I’m a massive surrealist fan, but to understand and appreciate art and it’s many factions of movements, I think that a base understanding is needed. As for the isms you can certainly see how one spawns another and gives way to a new yet familiar feeling style.

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      3. Right, there’s a continuity in the isms. I just reject that a new ism replaces or encompasses an old one (not saying you think that at all). So, for example, Expressionism followed Post Impressionism, but was any Expressionist as expressive as Van Gogh? Not in my book.

        Minimalism follows Abstract Expressionism and was a kind of reaction against it and rejection of it. But Minimalism certainly doesn’t envelope it, because it offers none of the same things, no feeling at all, and no joy of vigorous painting. Instead we get the flat surface of Stella or the floor tiles of Carl Andre, and the artists boldly say there is no content other than what you see.

        So, Minimalism doesn’t replace Abstract Expressionism, it’s just an alternative kind of art, and for me not one I’d have a lot of fun with.

        But, yeah, Surrealism certainly improved on Dadaism in my book.

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      4. No I think that isms give way to new ones. Either a reaction against or an enhancement. I still maintain that you can see the direct influence on each other… so in your example… abstract expressionism to minimalism… one (especially the action ab ex) is seemingly chaotic which then gives way to the basic and seemingly bland and controlled style of minimalism. I really do think however it is just how you as the audience interpret the movement. I am guessing that my view of things (just from the few convos we have been having today) are wildly different from yours which is what makes art such an amazing concept and highlights just how diverse the human brain is.

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      5. I don’t mind your views at all, and I don’t thin our stances are wildly different. Rather, I think we are coming from different angles and things seem different on the surface.

        So, I agree that Minimalism is a reaction, and one can say a development out of Abstract Expressionism, and that there are good things about this sort of exploration and development.

        But imagine if you are an artist or musician and you are only allowed to do Minimalism because that’s the era you live in. For a very real example in my grad school you couldn’t do painting, full stop, and you had to do conceptual work about social issues.

        So, I’m coming at it from the perspective that the artist should be able to use a full range of tools and to do whatever she or he wants. Thus, one is not restricted to being a part of an ism.

        I see the best artists as those who are idiosyncratic relative to the populace, and develop and manifest their unique vision. They are an ism onto themselves and only very loosely a part of some other ism. Van Gogh is a prime example.

        We can say he’s a Post Impressionist, but that just means he came after Impressionism. His style is instantly recognizable as his own. Same goes for El Greco, Frida Kahlo, Bosch, Francis Bacon, etc.

        In other words, artists don’t need to be restricted to playing an art game, as a domino, in a linear progression of art history, which is often just a game of oneupmanship.

        I’ve written about this is more depth elsewhere, Dismantling the Dominant Art Narrative: https://artofericwayne.com/2018/01/08/dismantling-the-dominant-art-narrative/

        In short, I’m for the artist having full reign and individual expression, rather than being a part of an insular, interior dialogue with art history. And I remember in college feeling that my peers were often not trying to make art, but to make art history.

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  2. So you don’t think the artist has personal choice? You don’t feel that those who become famous in their own lifetime actually were driven by a stronger need to be in the limelight, over developing art that they wanted to do? I would say Van Gogh was free to do what he wanted because he was basically an unknown until after death, despite his want and need to be great at something. Now I’m not denying his aptitude or ability, I’m just pointing out that he was more free because he had no ego which comes from being able to sell his art. Many, many of his piece he would replicate in order to try and perfect them and had he become famous I am fairly sure 1) this would have impacted his mental health further 2) he would have produced what the demand was for because he was a struggling artist and needed to eat. It’s quite different these days as artists who are up and coming also probably have another job to support themselves while they try and make their way. You’re saying that he doesn’t form part of an art movement, be he also didn’t create an art movement and I personally don’t think that it’s needed to become successful and generally it’s not the artist that name the movements… but the critics.
    Artists, can be likened to writers and actors… these guys can be, as you say, pigeon holed but actually they have the choice whether they write the next book in the series or kill off the main protagonist, or they take the role in which they are best at acting rather than stretching their potential.

    From how you are presenting this argument it feels that you are saying artist are almost bullied in to producing the same style over and over again to appease the masses, and there is little personal choice on their side; rather than they are producing something in a style that they are comfortable in and they know will sell.

    You earlier said that Hockney didn’t conform to this, but actually his “style and technique” doesn’t particularly waiver… I can see a painting by Hockney and know it is him before I have had it confirmed and that is due to the style.

    You can take the example of Dali for this is you want (much as I love him), he basically completely sold out… but it was his choice. Towards the end of his life he was so famous he could have probably painted or sculpted anything and audiences would have lapped it up… instead he chose to stick with his iconic style because that was his comfort zone and what he truly believed in.

    I do appreciate what you are saying, but you make it sound that the poor artist is being held to ransom over their work rather than them being truly committed to a style and presentation which they have worked to master and refine.

    Now I don’t know what art college you went to, but you had the choice to stay their and continue to create work which was a social commentary or move to a different college which would allow you to express freely. The potential is that you stayed there either because 1) the college is well known and you wanted the education from that college as the name will look good on your CV or 2) at the time you didn’t feel you were being pressured to work in that way and we’re happy exploring that style. If you were truly unhappy that you couldn’t paint you could have moved on. Very often you see art movement form as a reaction to what is being taught in the academic art world. Having a degree in theatre and performance, I can happily say I was never restricted to a style while learning and decided to follow the path of Dadaism and Avant garde as part of my learning, but this didn’t stop me understanding the techniques of Brecht and Stanislavsky.

    It’s possibly down to will and personality, and each artist will be different, but I certainly don’t think Pollock was the type of guy to be bullied in to producing Abstract Expressionism because that’s what the people wanted as I don’t think he really cared enough about other people to take in to account their feelings. I think it was more that he was completely absorbed and committed to a style that he wanted to produce, refine, redefine and be known for.

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