Abstraction & Truth

I’ve always loved Jackson Pollocks work. After the great documentary series This is Modern Art Pollock’s art started to make sense. The way Matthew Collings explained things opened up my malleable teenage mind. So I was watching a great documentary this morning Art of America, when host Andrew Graham-Dixon started discussing Pollocks abstraction. Action Painting and the Expressionism component of Pollock’s work had always made sense to me. The abstraction, not so much. In fact abstract art in almost all forms never really made sense. Until this morning.

When Andrew Graham-Dixon started discussing the way that Pollock consciously removed any part of the painting where the viewer could make out an object, or see something in the painting – a bridge, a face, figure – the idea of abstraction made sense. It was abstracted to convey truth. When you look at a Pollock painting one thing you are hit with is the inability to form any connection – too see anything. It is visual noise. Anything distinct is washed out, drowned out by the noise. It’s beautiful to see and experience. What Pollock does is expose truth. It is not wrapped up or distorted by our perception, our minds are un-tricked into seeing only the inherent beauty of the paint on canvas.

So much of art is about tricking the mind through the eye. Perspective, colour, line, tone – it’s all an illusion. The power of Pollock’s art is its ability to bypass deeply engrained behaviours. Our ability to be tricked goes all the way back to ancient ancestors and our flight or fight reaction. We see things so that we are prepared. It is better to see a tiger that isn’t there than to not see one at all.

I now understand the concept of truth via abstraction.


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