Summertime: Number 9A by Jackson Pollock

Jackson Pollock

Summertime: Number 9A, 1948, Oil paint, enamel paint, and commercial paint on canvas, 84.8 x 555 cm, Tate, T03977, © 2020 The Pollock-Krasner Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

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Bursting Forth

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Jackson Pollock took painting in a new and unexpected direction in the 1940s when he began to experiment with ‘drip’ painting. Breaking free from the constraints of the easel and the paint brush, he tacked his vast canvases to the floor of his studio and dripped, splashed, and poured paint onto them in a trance-like state, creating huge abstract patterns of colour and line.

The painting has a life of its own. I try to let it come through. It is only when I lose contact with the painting that the result is a mess. Otherwise there is pure harmony, an easy give and take. (Pollock 1947–48: 79)

As the prophet calls Israel to return to the Lord, he presents them with a picture of redemption: a picture of unbridled joy and freedom, peace, dancing, and song. ‘The mountains and the hills before you shall burst into song, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands’ (Isaiah 55:12 NRSV). This vision of redemption is synonymous with what Israel’s return from exile will elicit in them—true joy and freedom.

This is the true freedom to which the faithful are called: a world where creation is summoned to a deeper level of communion, where the unexpected bursts forth, and the natural order of things is turned on its head; a Narnian vision of wholeness (Lewis 1955: 97–108) where all creation leaps and sings.

Praise the Lord from the earth … mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars … let them praise the name of the Lord. (Psalm 148:7–13)

In Summertime Number 9A, black figures appear to dance and leap along the length of the canvas, whilst thinner grey lines of paint trace the figures’ exuberant, looping movements. The bright primary colours add to the mood of joy and celebration. This is ‘summertime’ after all; the time for rejoicing and making-merry, the time for carnivals and fairs.

Pollock’s canvas is 5.5 metres long; it hangs like a frieze depicting a great event, and its shape encourages its viewers to walk its length, taking in its energy and rhythm, joining the procession of dancing figures. Pollock gives us a vision of the new creation that the prophet Isaiah longed for God’s people to see; a creation that dances with abandon and bursts with life in the communion and harmony of its creator’s love.

 

References

Lewis, C.S. 1955. The Magician’s Nephew (London: Fontana Lions)

Pollock, Jackson. 1947–48. ‘My Painting’, Possibilities 1: 78–83; reprinted in Jackson Pollock: Interviews, Articles, and Reviews, ed. by Pepe Karmel (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 1988)

Varnedoe, Kirk. 1999. Jackson Pollock (London: Tate)

 


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