Painting, Pollock, and Fluid Dynamics

Jackson Pollock's Autumn Rhythm; Fair use argument: It is representative of the work of Jackson Pollock, who is a major artist in the period covered by the article. It is of educational and informational benefit to the reader.

In the 1940s, the American artist Jackson Pollock developed a new style of abstract painting. He used common, synthetic paints, dripping or pouring these directly onto the canvas. Pollock described the technique of his "drip paintings" this way: "I continue to get further away from the usual painter's tools such as easel, palette, brushes, etc. I prefer sticks, trowels, knives and dripping fluid paint or a heavy impasto with sand, broken glass or other foreign matter added."

In "Painting with Drops, Jets, and Sheets," Harvard Professor of Physics, Applied Mathematics and Organismic and Evolutionary Biology Lakshminarayanan Mahadevan, along with his colleagues at Boston College, use Pollock's work to illustrate and reconsider the boundary between art and physics.

The artist is not a slave to the physical properties of her materials; she uses her materials to execute an aesthetic vision which transcends them. The authors argue, however, that Pollock "creatively ceded some of the responsibility for the appearance of his work to natural phenomena, inviting fluid dynamics to coauthor his pieces." They suggest that "using the tools of physics and art history one may begin to dilineate the intersection of what is aesthetically viable and what is physically possible."

You can find a complete list of Prof. Mahadevan's work in DASH here.