The mature works of the American Abstract Expressionist painter, Jackson Pollock (1912–56), 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 just as ‘thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee’ (v.21).
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.
Searle, Adrian.1999. ‘Splash bang dollop, 9 March 1999’, www.theguardian.com [accessed 1 November 2018]
17 When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify thy Son that the Son may glorify thee, 2since thou hast given him power over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom thou hast given him. 3And this is eternal life, that they know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent. 4I glorified thee on earth, having accomplished the work which thou gavest me to do; 5and now, Father, glorify thou me in thy own presence with the glory which I had with thee before the world was made.
6 “I have manifested thy name to the men whom thou gavest me out of the world; thine they were, and thou gavest them to me, and they have kept thy word. 7Now they know that everything that thou hast given me is from thee; 8for I have given them the words which thou gavest me, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from thee; and they have believed that thou didst send me. 9I am praying for them; I am not praying for the world but for those whom thou hast given me, for they are thine; 10all mine are thine, and thine are mine, and I am glorified in them. 11And now I am no more in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to thee. Holy Father, keep them in thy name, which thou hast given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. 12While I was with them, I kept them in thy name, which thou hast given me; I have guarded them, and none of them is lost but the son of perdition, that the scripture might be fulfilled. 13But now I am coming to thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. 14I have given them thy word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. 15I do not pray that thou shouldst take them out of the world, but that thou shouldst keep them from the evil one. 16They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. 17Sanctify them in the truth; thy word is truth. 18As thou didst send me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be consecrated in truth.
20 “I do not pray for these only, but also for those who believe in me through their word, 21that they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. 22The glory which thou hast given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23I in them and thou in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that thou hast sent me and hast loved them even as thou hast loved me. 24Father, I desire that they also, whom thou hast given me, may be with me where I am, to behold my glory which thou hast given me in thy love for me before the foundation of the world. 25O righteous Father, the world has not known thee, but I have known thee; and these know that thou hast sent me. 26I made known to them thy name, and I will make it known, that the love with which thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them.”