In the exact moment Jackson Pollock’s painting popped up in the movie Mona Lisa Smile, Google returned the search results on him, for this article. Serendipity, a moment, a sign of being in sync. Fractals. Geometric patterns repeated a different scales and magnifications. Everything is a microcosm of the macrocosm.
The glorious textures of Jackson Pollock’s paint on canvas. The movement. The rhythm. I love his work.
Nanoparticle physicist Richard Taylor also loves, loves, loves Jackson Pollock’s work. In 1994, he left physics at the University of New South Wales for Manchester School of Art. During a storm in the moors, he and his classmates built a wind-propelled pendulum-like device from a fallen branch attached to paint cans. The resulting canvas looked like a Pollock, leading Richard Taylor to believe Jackson Pollock painted like nature, his “brushstrokes” resembling fractals. Back into science for him to investigate further.
With the help of computer programs, along with Adam Micolich (fractal analysis researcher) and David Jonas (image-processing expert), Richard Taylor examined the patterns of Pollock paintings. They are indeed fractal. Incidentally, fractal analysis has been used to authenticate his paintings, with interestingly high accuracy.
Fractal dimension or degree of complexity, D, is measured between 1 and 2. The more complex the higher the D value. Research shows that people preferred low to mid D values. Jackson’s drip paintings had a D value of 1.12 in 1945, which increased to 1.7 in 1952.1 The mid-range is “relaxing” (alpha brain waves were observed) and the higher range is more active. Number 14 (1948) has a D value of 1.45, that of many coastlines.2
Florence Williams writes in her book The Nature Fix that Richard Taylor believes Pollock painted nature in his drip paintings with fractal geometry, before it was a thing, and that our brains recognize these patterns quickly. “Pollock’s favoured dimension is similar to trees, snowflakes, and mineral veins.”3 For us, it is an easy and comfortable resonance and congruence with nature.
So the next time you need a pick-me-up or to relax, #getoutside. Lots of research shows how nature is healing and we are getting to find out how more and more. In Korea and Japan, forest bathing is government-funded to boost the people’s health, in countries where suicide and the concept of “death from overwork” (karoshi in Japan) are a sobering reality and hundreds of thousands of people take to these Forest Therapy trails in Japan where research goes back to 2003. The benefits of getting into greenery, back to nature, are becoming well-known, recognized, and enjoyed throughout the world, because, well, the ripple effects of urban living are undeniable. Getting back to nature is just healthy. Also maybe get a Pollock screensaver or print for your office space.
1 Order in Pollock’s Chaos by Richard Taylor. www.authenticationinart.org/pdf/literature/Richard-P.-TaylorOrder-in-Pollocks-Chaos.pdf
Read the PDF version of Order in Pollock’s Chaos here.
2 Pollock’s Fractals: That isn’t just a lot of splattered paint on those canvases, it’s good mathematics by Jennifer Ouellette. http://discovermagazine.com/2001/nov/featpollock
3 The Nature Fix. Florence Williams. W W Norton & Company. 2017.p115.
4 Ibid. p116.