Jackson Pollock

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The immense forces affecting the very foundations of traditional Western world views were on the move in the 20th century and set the course for rapid geopolitical, cultural, scientific, and technological change in the 21st century. Once the capsule that held the old cultural canon was breached, the creative energies that had sustained previous aesthetic practices exploded to the four directions sparking a deconstruction and recapitulation of everything that had supported the traditional image making process.¬†Evidence of the results of this radical departure from pre-existing canonical norms can be found in the veritable flood of “isms” in the visual arts that followed one after the other over the course of the 20th century.

“Probably never before in the history of literature or painting have there been so many isolated individuals. The concepts of school, tradition, and unity of style seem to have vanished. At a distance, of course, we can discover certain kinships; yet each individual seems to have felt the necessity of starting from the very beginning.” Erich Neumann, Art and the Creative Unconscious, page 111.

Jackson Pollock’s work in the years following the end of the second world war, offers testimony for the arrival, once again, of the agents of change originating in Europe, finding plenty of room for expansion in the New World.

Pollock’s best work seems to suggest a recapitulation of primordial energies that had prevailed in one form or another for untold eons in the development of humankind before the advent of consciousness. “In My Painting, he revealed that he painted in a kind of a trance: “When I am in my painting I am not aware of what I am doing. It is only after a sort of ‘get acquainted’ period that I see what I have been about. I have no fears about making changes, destroying the image , etc., because the painting has a life of its own. I try to let it come through. It is only when I loose contact with the painting that the result is a mess. Otherwise there is pure harmony, an easy give and take, and the painting turns out well.” C.G. Jung, Man and His Symbols, page 264.

“Pollock’s pictures represent the nothing that is everything – that is, the unconscious itself. They seem to live in a time before the emergence of consciousness and being, or to be fantastic landscapes of a time after the extinction of consciousness and being.” ibid.

His work reminds me of images of dust and gas clouds before the emergence of stars and galaxies in our 13.8 billion year old universe. Images in the internet of the Cosmic Microwave Background reveals: “… a snapshot of the oldest light in the Universe, imprinted on the sky ¬†when the Universe was just 380,000 years old. It shows tiny temperature fluctuations that correspond to regions of slightly different densities, representing the seeds of all future structures: the stars and galaxies of today.” Wikipedia.

The above supports Henry Moore’s quote in blog #7 where he says: “A basic feature of Modern Art is its striving to get back to the archaic again, to the original source beyond our differentiated consciousness.” If Cezanne described himself as a primitive of a new vision, and Klee saw himself as a primitive of a new sensibility, Pollock could be thought of as having produced images that suggest a time before the beginning of time. Considering Pollock’s work from the perspective of symbolizing a pervasive collective unconscious psychic condition that depicts the end product of a postmodern deconstruction of former modern values, it can also represent a metaphorical seed bed for renewal.

The foregoing makes no attempt to pass judgement on Pollock’s work in terms of whether is good or bad by comparison with the Western art achievements of the past. However, it can be looked at as an event in our recent history that produced a tangible end result of the 20th century’s assault on modern world views with their accompanying values in concert with other painters, poets, writers, philosophers, and deep thinkers of the day. And further, through a radical process of involution, Pollock unconsciously arrived at a representation of an original condition – a recapitulation in visual terms of the universe before the beginning of time.