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Crazy Writing - the Rhythms of Jackson Pollock2012.02.20

    The National Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo is host to a special exhibition, Jackson Pollock: A Centennial Retrospective, marking the 100th anniversary of the birth of one of the world’s most controversial artists, and a major figure in the Abstract Expressionism School of Modern Art. The exhibition runs between Feb 10~May 6, 2012, with further information on the website at:


    The exhibition features early work and influences on Jackson Pollock (1912~1956), as well as film footage showing his dynamic style of pouring and dripping paint, a style that came to be known as Action Painting, which he developed between the years 1947 and 1950. He abandoned this style for a darker color and more figurative style in the few remaining years of his life, which was cut short at the age of 44 in an accident driving under the influence of alcohol.


    You can read about Pollock’s life on Wikipedia at, and it is fun to find ways in which to engage with his paintings. Here is my approach.


    Bring a pair of binoculars. Opera glasses are not only for the opera. They can take you deep inside a painting by looking at details, without the frame or the name. This works for all kinds of art, but particularly for abstract paintings, where the life and vitality is in the details and in the moment of creation, more than in the picture as a whole. It can also give you a way to enjoy the painting at a distance, over the heads of the people crowding around it for a closer look.


    Bring music that influenced the artist. Jackson Pollock loved the 1940s Jazz scene in New York City, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, and BeBop. He told his wife that, “Jazz was the only other creative thing happening in the country.” Through your earplugs you can quietly transport yourself to the visual soundscape of BeBop rhythms, which celebrate life in the moment, not in the frame.


    Sketch your impressions of the painting. It is nearly impossible to sketch the painting itself, considering how it was dripped and poured on a large canvas stretched out on the floor. Even Pollock himself said that he was interested only in expressing his feelings, not illustrating them. If you are artistically inclined, you can create a visual sketch. As a calligrapher, I was inspired by the energy and shape of his lines, and so created the illustration shown here with the characters for 狂書, the style of crazy writing that was mastered by the Chinese master calligrapher 懐素 Kaiso in the 8th Century. This was done by drawing calligraphy, color and digital drippings on the iPad.


    Or you can write your impressions in words, in an attempt to describe what you saw or how you felt standing before a Pollock masterpiece.


    Jackson Pollock painted with speed and rhythm And his brush seldom touched the canvas Dripping and swinging like a long armed simian Finding his voice in the horns of Dizzy and Bird's Jazz And losing it at the wheel of his car Living in his paintings, without ending or beginning


    The Abstract Expressionists created an American school of Art that was totally free of European tradition, and unafraid to create something new, despite criticism by contemporary faultfinders that his work was a meaningless joke. The critics names are forgotten, and Pollock’s paintings are now honored around the world. Jackson Pollock said that he lived in his paintings, and that each one had a life all its own. Who can say as much about their own creations? If you look deeply into his paintings you can experience the flight of visual Jazz at its best.



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    Article Writer

    William Reed

    William Reed is a renowned author-speaker who coaches physical finesse and flexible focus for a creative career path. A certified Master Trainer in Guerrilla Marketing and 7th-dan in Aikido, he combines practical wisdom of East and West to help you learn personal branding at the Entrepreneurs Creative Edge.

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