'Jackson Pollock in 1950' by Hans Namuth

Hans Namuth

'Jackson Pollock in 1950', 1950, Gelatin-silver print, 20.3 x 20.3 cm, Associated with 'Jackson Pollock', 19 Dec 1956–3 Feb 1957, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, Courtesy Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona © 1991 Hans Namuth Estate

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Perfectly One

Individual Commentary
Commentary by
Charles Pickstone

The mature works of the American Abstract Expressionist painter, Jackson Pollock (1912–1956), were produced by laying a canvas on the studio floor and then dripping, pouring, or brushing paint across its surface. This photograph captures Pollock flicking paint across the canvas ‘like the follow-through a fly fisherman performs when punching a line out into the wind’ (Searle 1999). The consequent filigree of lines has, at best, a quite unexpected, delicate beauty and sophistication.

By placing his canvas on the floor, Pollock can put his whole body into making his art. He is so caught up in the act of creation—the painting is as much a trace of action as a static final object—that any divide between artist and artwork, person and object, disappears. The artist enters into his creation so completely that the work is Pollock himself, the fine skein of its surface his psyche. In its public exposure of a raw and intimate self that most people would conceal, it feels almost blasphemous.

In John 17, Jesus talks about the unique and extraordinary unity that exists between himself and the Father. Jesus has been able to reveal God’s name (his identity) (v.5) to human beings because ‘All mine are thine and thine are mine’ (v.10). He prays that his disciples may be one (v.21) just as ‘thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee’.

In Hans Namuth’s photo, the palpable unity of artist and artwork, and the consequent enfleshment in paint of the artist’s inmost self, is beautifully manifest. It can open a window onto the way the unseeable God (Colossians 1:15) is revealed in the flesh of his Son. Meanwhile the alluring yet vulnerable beauty of the artwork is perhaps analogous to the vulnerable yet appealing figure of Jesus at the Last Supper, on the night of his betrayal—the night before he revealed his glory on the cross. He is the intimate revelation of the Father.

 

References

Searle, Adrian.1999. ‘Splash bang dollop, 9 March 1999’, www.theguardian.com [accessed 1 November 2018]