On this occasion, we wanted to immerse ourselves in the life, thought and work of one of the most important painters of abstract expressionism in the world. We speak of Jackson Pollock, an artist who possessed a volatile personality that unleashed the alcoholism with which he fought throughout his life. The truth is that all his magnificent work seems to be linked, in one way or another, to his psychological problems.
He died prematurely in a car accident, but managed to enjoy a remarkable professional success in life. He was known as the mad genius who splashed canvases.
He invented an artistic technique called dripping in which several elements were united such as the force of gravity, the movement of his body, the subtle consistency of the painting and the canvas lying on the floor. This technique revolutionized the world of art and the way of painting.
The creation of this type of painting was developed while the artist was admitted receiving psychiatric treatment, he was treated for a manic depressive diagnosis. It seems that it was during his period of improvement that he began to experiment painting in this way; some professionals have identified it with a janusian process.
Jackson Pollock was born in Wyoming in 1912 into a Presbyterian family. His first years were spent in Arizona and California. In this last place, Pollock began his studies in art, but his rebellious nature earned him the expulsion of two different schools when he was very young.
In 1930, he moved with his brother to New York, both attended the Art Student League in New York. His teacher was Thomas Hart Benton, a figure who inspired a rhythmic use of the painting that fell deeply into Pollock. He went through different creative periods, but his dripping technique was responsible for granting him international recognition.
Back then, this extraordinary genius of painting had problems with alcohol abuse, a substance he used to alleviate what seemed like symptoms of some major psychological disorder.
In his desire to combat alcoholism, Pollock underwent Jungian psychotherapy with several prestigious doctors. It was one of them, Dr. Henderson, who encouraged him to express himself through his art.
In October 1945, Pollock married Lee Krasner, an American painter with whom he lived on the south coast of Long Island, New York. Pollock converted the barn of the family home into his studio and there perfected his dripping technique.
On August 11, 1956, Jackson Pollock lost his life prematurely in a car accident as a result of driving under the influence of alcohol.
Jackson Pollock’s bipolar disorder
The identification of Pollock’s mental illness with a bipolar disorder is quite recent and is shaped by Henderson’s report on him. In that report, your doctor describes periods of violent agitation that alternated with paralysis or abstinence. Another report by one of his doctors defined him as a manic depressant.
This diagnosis of recent bipolar disorder is built, in turn, with the help of the descriptions that Pollock’s wife made about her husband’s changing emotional states.
“What Jackson felt, he felt more intensely than anyone that I have known; when I was angry, I was more angry; when I was happy, I was happier than anyone; when he was silent, he was the quietest.”
The janusian thought
The janusian thought is a concept that tells us how the ability to see things from opposite perspectives among themselves allows the solution of problems. It has been applied especially in terms of maximum creativity.
In this sense, creativity, innovation and disruption would go hand in hand with assimilating and understanding the opposites and, subsequently, giving them use in ways never before raised. It is a conscious process and away from the mental rigidity and irrationality of pathological processes.
During the time when he seemed to have experienced a great improvement, Pollock often spoke of the idea of working his art by hiding and expressing symbols simultaneously. At this moment, his drip painting is born, which it is an example of the Janusian process. That is, actively conceive multiple opposites.
The figure of Jackson Pollock is a good example of those artists whose works combine art with psychology. They merge and maintain a dialogue with the creator, the work part of him, born from within, from his unconscious and, somehow, the work flows and takes on a life of its own.
“When I’m in my painting, I’m not aware of what I’m doing. Only after a kind of “familiarization” period do I see what I have done. I am not afraid to make changes, destroy the image, etc., because the painting has a life of its own. I try to let it go. Only when I lose contact with the painting, the result is a disaster. Otherwise, there is a pure harmony, an easy give and take, and the painting goes well.”