Jackson Pollock’s ‘Summertime’ 1948

'Summertime: Number 9A'
Summertime: Number 9A, Jackson Pollock, 1948

Like Miro, Pollock also aimed to paint from the subconscious in an automatic way, though Pollock’s approach seems a lot more fun and expressive. He lay out a very big (I can’t find the dimensions anywhere) roll of canvas across his studio on the floor and walked along, tipping on layers of paint in squiggles and splats with large gestures.

I think a lot of people tend to dismiss Pollock’s work as lazy and easy, without any artistic effort put in. People often have an “anyone could do that” attitude towards it. I disagree with this because if anyone else did it, it wouldn’t look like this. I would look like someone else tipping paint on a canvas. A lot of it is incidental, sure, but all of the action is set into motion by an artist and you can tell it’s somewhat deliberate. The patches of colour are often quite neatly framed in grey or black and meet in blocks rather than overlapping very messily as would happen if you really didn’t care.

The layering seems to be Green specks, cream flecks, grey large flings and dribbles, black large flings and dribbles, then purple, red, yellow and blue patches added into negative space with a stick, perhaps.

The grey and black throws of paint seem to dance across the page and give a sense of liveliness and fun with their looseness and expressive randomness, showing directly and automatically the movements Pollock made with his arms to tip the paint to make it fall as it did. Though it may seem incidental, the canvas has captured all of the movement that took place within it and is a direct representation and record of the incident, it’s a remain of that action. I like this.

Once again, despite this perhaps just being a lot of paint thrown at a canvas, there are many, many variables that could have produced a completely different image. For instance, the colours of paint. The amount of paint thrown. The movements used. The areas applied with a stick. The mood of the artist while working. Everything about this is considered, at least a little.

There are tertiary and secondary, muted colours used for background layers and grey as a lesser presence, with the same function as the black. Then, on top, are the primary colours and black giving a very strong and bold image and purposefully accentuating certain areas. Sure, these areas may have just been picked because they seem aesthetically pleasing and not according to some traditional, mathematical structure for composing images, but it’s still striking and effective. I think the piece is quite eye-catching and you could easily look at it for a long time and just see more and more, like how the black thrown parts look almost like characters – both in the sense of lettering and in the sense of figures.

I really love the freedom and directness of this piece. It’s a simple idea, dripping paint, but I like it. It’s almost like seeing 70 year old skid marks on the road or footprints in the sand, or the lines of bike tyres skidding down a muddy hill. It’s like you can see the ghost of the action that happened in the past in a way that still seems fresh and immediate.

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