The other day someone came into my gallery and took some time to look at the work that I have been doing recently. He took his time and we talked a little bit about art.

Then he looked at the portfolio  where I have large format pictures of the work I had done early in my start of my painting. He remarked “hmmm hmmm…very Pollock”. I got the sense he was saying it as a denunciation of the work as if he thought that I was copying someone else and thus not being original.

I replied that he wasn’t the first to make the Pollack reference and in fact my early stuff indeed had a particular affectation to the style Pollock is most known for. After, we said goodbye and I continued doing my work.

It got me thinking and I came to a realization. Yes, he was in fact one of many who had made the same “very Pollock” statement. And he said it in a way that most people had said it; as if I was stealing his ‘style’. That’s when I realized that in the mind of some people, Jackson Pollock ‘owns’ the drip style he used in his most famous works of art, and that no one really can use it and call themselves original.

If you don’t know who Jackson Pollock is, don’t worry. Thanks to the film ‘Pollock”, directed by the actor Ed Harris in 2000, most people who weren’t aware of him at the time now had this film as their first exposure to the man. It was a nuanced portrayal of a complicated individual struggling with his demons in his effort to create his art, his space in the universe if you will, and finding the next level of his art. It was  critically well received and nominated for several awards and ended up winning an Oscar for Marcia Gay Harden in her  portrayal of Lee Krasner, Pollock’s partner. So if you haven’t seen it, rent it. You won’t regret it.

In the film, there is one scene that takes place in the converted barn turned studio on the Long Island property where he and Krasner have moved to from the city. It’s winter, he’s cold and achy. He gets up, has his coffee and cigarette and goes out to the studio. He’s going to work and you can tell he’s in a rut. He arrives and starts his work. There is a moment when Jackson Pollock (Ed Harris) is contemplating the huge blank canvas laid out on the floor and some paint drips from the brush down onto it. It catches his attention, he is enamored with the resulting effect, and slowly starts to repeat the same action all over the canvas. Thus, the process he used to create his most famous paintings was born.

I don’t know if the film took dramatic license to recreate that moment with Pollock and the canvas. I hadn’t read any books on him at that point.(Still haven’t) But he later expressed that his style and the materials he used came organically from a need. It was a necessity for him.

Pollock is associated with the New York School, the group of artists in New York in the 50’s, who would eventually become known as the kings of the American Post War movement in modern art. Or New York abstract expressionists. Willem de Kooning, Mark Rothko, Lee Krasner and even Robert De Niro’s father were some of the people in this group.

At this time, many of the artists were using physical action as part of the their process in putting their work on canvas. It was something that few had seen until certain journalist’s and the art circle in New York started following these budding personalities.Pollack at the time was deep into the drip technique and the rest is history.

The interesting thing is many do not know he abruptly abandoned this style in his later years. Why? Maybe for him it was no longer a means in which to express himself.

The result, I think , is that people get the impression that a style most associated with an artist is ‘theirs’.

Not so. Da Vinci was a master of the portrait style. Just look at the Mona Lisa. Millions know of it and have seen it either in print or in person. But that doesn’t mean no one else can paint a portrait and not be original in their own right. Monet was a master of flowers and gardens paintings. That doesn’t mean no one else can paint the same and not call themselves original.

That’s the great thing about art. It springs to life because of the interpretation by the artist of what he sees, feels and what he’s trying to convey on the surface of his choice.

For me, when I started painting, it was out of necessity that I used the drip approach. I had no formal training, a small space in my apartment  to work and the need to express myself on to the canvas. I didn’t even have brushes. Just some paint and some canvas. I used a plastic spoon to apply my paint. I was busting at the seams to do something creative. If I hadn’t,I have no doubt I would have lost my mind.

The resulting works were very interesting from a visual standpoint. I was beginning see what colors worked together, which ones didn’t, which shades were appealing and which ones were muddy. I saw shapes and depth. I saw ‘things’ in the paintings that were probably subconscious revelations.I began to develop my art.

All in all, I began to learn what painting was for me. And like Pollock, I moved away from it when I wanted to try something new that my growing confidence now allowed.

I could have stayed doing it. I could have just stuck with that and tried to be content with it. But I had to evolve. And I think I have.

There’s a part two to this coming soon but I want to say “thank you Jackson Pollock”. And thanks to all the other artists who toiled in the 50‘s and maybe didn’t get as famous as he did. You paved the way for the rest of us.

And it showed me three things: that the collective unconscious exists and all art stems from this pool, that having someone draw a comparison or mention to a prior artist like him is always a compliment, and the thing that an artist truly owns is his desire to get what he needs to get out of him and onto the canvas in what ever method he sees fit.

Style, application, technique are universal.

To be continued

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