Interview with William Wright – Jackson Pollock
Mr Pollock, in your opinion, what is the meaning of modern art ?
JP : Modern art to me is nothing more than the expression of contemporary aims of the age that we’re living in.
Did the classical artists have any means of expressing their age ?
jp: Yes, they did it very well. All cultures have had means and techniques of expressing their immediate aims – the Chinese, the Renaissance, all cultures. The thing that interests me is that today painters do not have to go to a subject matter outside of themselves. Most modern painters work from a different source. They work from within.
Would you say that the modern artist has more or less isolated the quality which made the classical works of art valuable, that he’s isolated it and uses it in a purer form ?
JP: Ah – the good ones have, yes.
Mr Pollock, there’s been a good deal of controversy and a great many comments have been made regarding your method of painting. Is there something you’d like to tell us about that ?
JP: My opinion is that new needs need new techniques. And the modern artists have found new ways and new means of making their statements. It seems to me that the modern painter cannot express this age, the airplane, the atom bomb, the radio, in the old forms of the Renaissance or of any other past culture. Each age finds its own technique.
Which would also mean that the layman and the critic would have to develop their ability to interpret the new techniques ?
JP: Yes – that always somehow follows. I mean, the strangeness will wear off and I think we will discover the deeper meanings in modern art.I suppose every time you are approached by a layman they ask you how they should look at a
Pollock painting, or any other modern painting – what they look for – how do they learn to appreciate modern art?
JP: I think they should not look for, but look passively – and try to receive what the painting has to offer and not bring a subject matter or preconceived idea of what they are to be looking for.
Would it be true to say that the artist is painting from the unconscious, and the canvas must act as the unconscious of the person who views it ?
JP: The unconscious is a very important side of modern art and I think the unconscious drives do mean a lot in looking at paintings.
Then deliberately looking for any known meaning or object in an abstract painting would distract you immediately from ever appreciating it as you should ?
JP: I think it should be enjoyed just as music is enjoyed – after a while you may like it or you may not. But – it doesn’t seem to be too serious. I like some flowers and others, other flowers I don’t like. I think at least it gives
-I think at least give it a chance.
Well, I think you have to give anything that sort of chance. A person isn’t born to like good music, they have to listen to it and gradually develop an understanding of it or liking for it.
If modern painting works the same way – a person would have to subject himself to it over a period of time in order to be able to appreciate it.
JP: I think that might help, certainly.
Mr Pollock, the classical artists had a world to express and they did so by representing the objects in that world. Why doesn’t the modern artist do the same thing?
JP: H’m – the modern artist is living in a mechanical age and we have a mechanical means of representing objects in nature such as the camera and photograph. The modern artist, it seems to me, is working and expressing an inner world – in other words – expressing the energy, the motion, and other inner forces.
Would it be possible to say that the classical artist expressed his world by representing the objects, whereas the modern artist expresses his world by representing the effects the objects have upon him}
JP: Yes, the modern artist is working with space and time, and expressing his feelings rather than illustrating.
Well, Mr Pollock, can you tell us how modern art came into being ?
JP: It didn’t drop out of the blue; it’s a part of a long tradition dating back with Cezanne, up through the cubists, the post-cubists, to the painting being done today.
Then, it’s definitely a product of evolution?
Shall we go back to this method question that so many people today think is important? Can you tell us how you developed your method of painting, and why you paint as you do}
JP: Well, method is, it seems to me, a natural growth out of a need, and from a need the modern artist has found new ways of expressing the world about him. I happen to find ways that are different from the usual techniques of painting, which seems a little strange at the moment, but I don’t think there’s anything very different about it. I paint on the floor and this isn’t unusual the Orientals did that.
How do you go about getting the paint on the canvas? I understand you don’t use brushes or anything of that sort, do you ?
JP: Most of the paint I use is a liquid, flowing kind of paint. The brushes I use are used more as sticks rather than brushes – the brush doesn’t touch the surface of the canvas, it’s just above.
Would it be possible for you to explain the advantage of using a stick with paint liquid paint rather than a brush on canvas ?
JP: Well, I’m able to be more free and to have greater freedom and move about the canvas, with greater ease.
Well, isn’t it more difficult to control than a brush? I mean, isn V there more a possibility of getting too much paint or splattering or any number of things? Using a brush, you put the paint right where you want it and you know exactly whatit’s going to look like.
JP: No, I don’t think so. I don’t – ah – with experience – it seems to be possible to control the flow of the paint, to a great extent, and I don’t use – I don’t use the accident – cause I deny the accident.I believe it was Freud who said there’s no such thing as an accident.
Is that what you mean ?
jp: I suppose that’s generally what I mean.
Then, you don’t actually have a preconceived image of a canvas in your mind ?
JP: Well, not exactly – no – because it hasn’t been created, you see. Something new – it’s quite different from working, say, from a still life where you set up objects and work directly from them. I do have a general notion of what I’m about and what the results will be.
That does away, entirely, with all preliminary sketche?
JP: Yes, I approach painting in the same sense as one approaches drawing; that is, it’s direct. I don’t work from drawings, I don’t make sketches and drawings and color sketches into a final painting. Painting, I think today – the more immediate, the more direct – the greater the possibilities of making a direct – of making a statement.
Well, actually every one of your paintings, your finished canvases, is an absolute original.
JP: Well – yes – they’re all direct painting. There is only one.
Well, now, Mr Pollock, would you care to comment on modern painting as a whole? What is your feeling about your contemporaries ?
JP: Well, painting today certainly seems very vibrant, very alive, very exciting. Five or six of my contemporaries around New York are doing very vital work, and the direction that painting seems to be taking here – is – away from the easel – into some sort, some kind of wall – wall painting. / believe some of your canvases are of very unusual dimensions, isn’t that true} JP: Well, yes, they’re an impractical size – 9 x 18 feet. But I enjoy working big and – whenever I have a chance, I do it whether it’s practical or not.
Can you explain why you enjoy working on a large canvas more than on a small one ?
JP: Well, not really. I’m just more at ease in a big area than I am on something 2 x 2; I feel more at home in a big area.
I notice over in the corner you have something done on plate glass. Can you tell us something about that ?
JP: Well, that’s something new for me. That’s the first thing I’ve done on glass and I find it very exciting. I think the possibilities of using painting on glass in modern architecture – in modern construction – terrific.
Well, does the one on glass differ in any other way from your usual technique?
JP: It’s pretty generally the same. In this particular piece I’ve used colored glass sheets and plaster slabs and beach stones and odds and ends of that sort. Generally it’s pretty much the same as all of my paintings.
Well, in the event that you do more of these for modem buildings, would you continue to use various objects ?
JP: I think so, yes. The possibilities, it seems to me are endless, what one can do with glass. It seems to me a medium that’s very much related to contemporary painting.
Mr Pollock, isn’t it true that your method of painting, your technique, is important and interesting only because of what you accomplish by it?
JP: I hope so. Naturally, the result is the thing – and – it doesn’t make much difference how the paint is put on as long as something has been said. Technique is just a means of arriving at a statement.