Get Pollocked : Fractals in Art and in Nature

The word fractals sounds pretty cool. While the word may sound vaguely familiar, our body and mind already understand the concept of fractals. Understanding that fractals exist throughout nature and even in man-made creations, like Jackson Pollock’s art, reminds us that we are part of a greater whole. Not only that, seeing fractals has health benefits.

The Beauty of Serendipity

I had earlier in the day read about the fractals of Jackson Pollock’s paintings. When the “itch” came back, I went on Google, even though I was watching the movie Mona Lisa Smile, for the first time.  (This may also be an example of diversive curiosity becoming epistemic.)  In the exact moment Jackson Pollock’s painting popped up on the TV screen, Google returned the search results for Jackson Pollock.

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.

According to Primal Astrology, a system that combines Western and Chinese Astrology, Jackson Pollock is the Pufferfish. Read about the Pufferfish astrology, which sheds a lot of light on this genius.

Exploring Pollock Fractals

According to Primal Astrology, a system that combines Western and Chinese Astrology, Jackson Pollock is the Pufferfish. Read about the Pufferfish [here] which sheds a lot of light on this genius.

Nanoparticle physicist Richard Taylor also loves, loves, loves Jackson Pollock’s work and 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 to science for him to investigate further.


I am Nature.

Jackson Pollock

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 Pollock’s famous 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. The piece Number 14 (1948) has a D value of 1.45, that of many coastlines.2

What are Fractals?

“Fractal” comes from the Latin word fractus, meaning broken and was coined by Benoit Mandelbrot. The principle of fractals is self-similarity, a pattern repeated on different magnifications. There are no straight lines in nature, which expresses this statistical self-similiarty. Fractals are measured by the complexity, given the measurement of D, from 1 to 2. Fractals in nature – coastlines, capillaries, neurons, mountains, retinal search, clouds, trees, snowflakes…

Florence Williams writes in her book The Nature Fix that Richard Taylor believes Pollock painted nature in his drip paintings with fractal geometry, before fractal geometry 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.

Your visual system is in some way hardwired to understand fractals. The stress-reduction is triggered by a physiological resonance that occurs when the fractal structure of the eye matches that of the fractal image being viewed.

Richard Taylor4

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.
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.
3 The Nature Fix. Florence Williams. W W Norton & Company. 2017.p115.
4 Ibid. p116.

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