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The Mysterious Rituals Of Jackson Pollock's Abstraction

Updated: Apr 5

Jackson Pollock, a pivotal figure in the abstract expressionist movement, is renowned for his groundbreaking technique and enigmatic artistic process. His iconic drip paintings, characterized by chaotic webs of paint splatters and rhythmic gestures, continue to captivate audiences and spark intrigue. Yet, behind the veil of creativity lies a series of mysterious rituals that Pollock employed in the creation of his masterpieces.

Pollock was widely noticed for his "drip technique" of pouring or splashing paint onto a horizontal surface, enabling him to view and paint his canvases from all angles.

Jackson Pollock covered the entire canvas and used the force of his whole body to paint, often in a frenetic dancing style.

Let's delve into the enigmatic world of Jackson Pollock's abstract painting rituals.

1. The Sacred Space:

Pollock's studio, a converted barn in East Hampton, New York, served as his sacred space—a sanctuary where he could unleash his creativity without inhibition. Within these walls, Pollock constructed a makeshift painting arena by laying a large canvas on the floor, allowing him to work from all angles with unrestricted movement.

2. The Dance of Chaos:

Pollock's painting process was akin to a frenzied dance—a choreographed symphony of movement and energy. Eschewing traditional brushes, he wielded sticks, trowels, and even turkey basters to fling, drip, and splatter paint onto the canvas with unbridled force. His entire body became a conduit for expression as he moved rhythmically around the canvas, channeling his innermost emotions and impulses.

3. The Music of Inspiration:

Music played a vital role in Pollock's creative process, serving as a catalyst for inspiration and flow. He often blasted jazz or classical music in his studio, allowing the rhythmic beats and melodies to guide his movements and elevate his state of mind. The symbiotic relationship between music and painting infused his artworks with a sense of dynamic energy and spontaneity.

4. The Intuitive Gesture:

Central to Pollock's technique was the concept of intuitive gesture—the act of painting directly from the subconscious mind without preconceived notions or deliberate planning. He embraced spontaneity and improvisation, allowing the paint to dictate its own path across the canvas. Each drip, splatter, and swirl was a reflection of his innermost thoughts and emotions, captured in a moment of creative fervor.

5. The Ritual of Destruction and Creation:

Pollock's process was a continuous cycle of destruction and creation—a ritualistic dance between chaos and order. He would often layer paint upon paint, building up dense, intricate textures before ruthlessly slashing or scraping away layers to reveal hidden depths beneath. This process of destruction and creation imbued his artworks with a sense of history, transformation, and resilience.

6. The Cathartic Release:

For Pollock, painting was a cathartic release—an opportunity to confront his inner demons and grapple with the complexities of the human condition. His frenetic painting rituals allowed him to channel his emotions onto the canvas, transforming raw energy into visual poetry. In this act of creation, Pollock found solace, liberation, and transcendence.

The Mysterious Rituals Of Jackson Pollock's Abstraction
Jackson Pollock's Abstraction

The Mysteries Jackson Pollock's Abstract Painting Rituals:

Jackson Pollock's philosophy

Pollock as an Abstract Expressionist represented the transformation of painting into a drama, The piece of art was not meant to express a picture but to record a painting event, the canvas was "an arena to act". The finished painting is only the physical residue of the actual rituals of the painting's creation process.

The famous "Drip paintings" Pollock began producing in the 1940s represent one of the most remarkable Abstract Expressionism symbols. they could represent an innovative step out of the traditional art boundaries, an expression of the anxious, and an anarchic depiction of the newly frightening modern world.

In 1928, Pollock moved to Los Angeles, where he enrolled at Manual Arts High School.

There Pollock came under the influence of Frederick John de St. Vrain Schwankovsky, a painter and illustrator who was also a member of the Theosophical Society that promoted metaphysical and occult spirituality.

Schwankovsky gave Pollock rudimentary training in drawing and painting, introduced him to advanced currents of European modern art, and encouraged his interest in theosophical literature.

Pollock, who had been raised an agnostic, attended the camp meetings of the theosophist Jiddu Krishnamurti, a personal friend of Schwankovsky. These spiritual explorations prepared him to embrace the theories of the Swiss psychologist Carl Jung and the exploration of unconscious imagery in his paintings in subsequent years.

Pollock attended the 1941 Indian Art Exhibition with his Jungian psychotherapist at MoMA. Jungian Psychotherapy is an analytical approach to talk therapy that seeks to bring balance and union between the conscious and unconscious parts of the mind.

Native American sand painting
Native American sand painting

Jackson Pollock "Drip Technique" Splashing Paint onto a Surface

Pollock is known for his "Drip Technique" of splashing paint onto a surface, a technique that combined the movement of his body, over which he had control, the viscous flow of paint, the force of gravity, and the absorption of paint into the canvas.

Pollock's Drip Technique was a mixture of controllable and uncontrollable factors. Flinging, dripping, pouring, and spattering, he would move energetically around the canvas, almost as if in a dance, and would not stop until he saw what he wanted to see.

Pollock, Having grown up in the West, was exposed to Native American art early. In fact, Pollock recollected witnessing Indian rituals as a child, such rituals played an important role in the development of his artistic process.

Pollock was inspired by Indian sand painters who created temporary works of art as part of a religious ritual and the notion that artmaking is a spiritual process.

Pollock observed Native American sand painting demonstrations in the 1940s. Referring to his style of painting on the floor, Pollock stated, "I feel nearer, more a part of the painting, since this way I can walk round it, work from the four sides and literally be in the painting. This is akin to the methods of the Indian sand painters of the West".

Other influences on Pollock's drip technique include the Mexican muralists and Surrealist automatism, a method of artmaking in which the artist suppresses conscious control over the making process, allowing the unconscious mind to have great sway.

Pollock turned to drip paint in a shamanistic attempt to heal himself; not coincidentally, Indian sand painting is often part of a healing ritual. Though Pollock sought out Indian art and became well-versed in the ethnology of Native Americans, he maintained that his debt to Indian art was subconscious, as he did not deliberately draw upon American Indian artistic process or subject matter.

Jackson Pollock decided to focus his efforts on a deliberate and sustained exploration of the possibilities of creating an entire composition by dripping or pouring paint, A full four years after his first experimentation with this technique Pollock returned to it with a vengeance, Pollock devised a handy way to create a more continuous line by tilting a commercial can of thinner, more liquid paint, and allowing it to run down a stick placed in the can at an angle.

Lucifer Jackson Pollock 1947
Lucifer Jackson Pollock 1947

Lucifer Painting By Jackson Pollock

Lucifer was the name of the planet Venus, though it was often personified as a male figure bearing a torch, In Christianity, Lucifer represents the fallen angel, the angel who became so impressed with his own beauty, intelligence, power, and position that he began to desire for himself the honor and glory that belonged to God alone.

Lucifer's pride represents the actual beginning of sin in the universe. "Lucifer also was said to be the fabled son of Aurora and Cephalus, and father of Ceyx".

Lucifer Painting, in which Pollock freely admitted total retrenchment from traditional methods of oil painting. At some point in the process of painting, Pollock laid down his brush and began instead to drip and spatter his pigment, not quite completely covering the underlayer, into which he also embedded small pieces of gravel to increase the texture.

The scattered Emerald Green Paint drippings may represent the enlightenment against the dark matter of the universe "represented as black paint drippings underneath".

Lucifer Painting emphasizes the connection between Jackson Pollock and the New Age movement "A spiritual or non-scientific movement includes activities such as meditation, astrology, and alternative medicine, also belief in reincarnation and the presence of spiritual energy in physical objects like mountains or trees..".

Jackson Pollock died on August 11, 1956, at 10:15 p.m., in a single-car crash in his Oldsmobile convertible while driving under the influence of alcohol.

In conclusion, Jackson Pollock's abstract painting rituals remain shrouded in mystery and fascination, offering a glimpse into the mind of a visionary artist. His unorthodox techniques, intuitive gestures, and ritualistic process continue to inspire artists and audiences alike, reminding us of the profound connection between creativity, expression, and the human experience. As we unravel the mysteries of Pollock's artistic journey, we uncover timeless truths about the transformative power of art to transcend boundaries, ignite imagination, and touch the soul.

Jackson Pollock tried to validate, what he believed, could allow the energy to literally "flow" straight from his unconscious to the canvas.

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