Project 1 – Research Point 2: Abstract Expressionism_Tachism

I already looked briefly in my previous research on paint application on dripping and splashing in the context of the American Abstract Expressionist movement what I will investigate a bit deeper in this research (Schaffeld, weblog post 16 Jan 2016)

American Abstract Expressionism

One main aspect connected with this movement is Action Painting alongside the dripping and splashing of paint. This is still often associated with Jackson Pollock. The processes of the artists were based on splashing and strong gestural brushstrokes (exceeding those from earlier impasto technique). The scale of work became much larger and the canvas or other supports even layed on the ground to work physically around it. Instead of careful and conscious brushstrokes the paint was dripped onto the canvas. This movement can be linked strongly to the automatic drawing and painting technique of Surrealism to allow the unconsciousness and the element of chance to impact strongly the final result. The term ‘action painting’ was coined by Harold Rosenberg in his groundbreaking articleThe American Action Painters published in ARTnews in December 1952. (Tate Glossary). One of the main achievements of this movement and mainly by Pollock was in developing a unique abstract style with detaching line from color and find a new approach to visualise the pictorial space.

Tachism and Art Informel

The European equivalent to the American Abstract Expressionism.

Tachism: “Term used to describe the non-geometric abstract art that developed in Europe in the 1940s and 1950s characterized by spontaneous brushwork, drips and scribble-like marks” (Tate Glossary)

Art Informel:Art informel is a French term describing a swathe of approaches to abstract painting in the 1940s and 1950s which had in common an improvisatory methodology and highly gestural technique” (Tate Glossary)

On both sides the artist believed that painting should record and evoke immediate inner experiences, tensions and energies.


[all online images accessed between 18 – 20 Jan 2017] form the respective websites.

Franz Kline (1910 – 1962) an American Painter

=> Kline used bold tonal contrasts and variations of scale to explore gestural movement in his paintings. His works were often associated with Japanese calligraphy what Kline himself consistently denied. The gestural and sweeping strokes that dominate his thickly painted canvases convey the emotion embedded in the act of painting itself (Gagosian). as in his work  ‘Black Sienna’ ,1960 or ‘Meryon‘, 1960-1 In this context I can the see the link with David Hominal whose work were on exhibition last year (Schaffeld, weblog post, 19 May 2016), especially the work ‘Détail‘, 2015

Jackson Pollock (1912 – 1956) an American Painter
–  ‘Summertime: Number 9A‘, 1948
=> This painting reflects Pollocks belief that “The modern artist … is working and expressing an inner world – in other words expressing the energy, the motion, and other inner forces.” (Tate)
– ‘Yellow Island‘, 1952. => ‘When I am painting I am not much aware of what is taking place’ (Pollock), 1947. This painting shows the dripping and pouring paint, Pollock’s intuitive approach and letting his thoughts and feelings being articulated in rhythmic patterns.  In this painting he lifted also the support to let the paint soak and run on the unprimed canvas.

Both paintings do show how the intuitive free application of paint leaves traces behind. Here the definition of what drawing and painting is getting obscured. Another important aspect in Pollock’s works are the balance of control and chance to create a balanced nearly meditative rhythm in patterns that at times can be associated with the balanced rhythm of color in Mark Rothko’s color field paintings. He rejected the connotation of chaos as absence of control and balance in his paintings.

Lee Krasner (1908 – 1984) an American artist and often sacrifying her own work for the work of her husband Pollock.
Composition‘, 1949 => Krasner worked with the canvas flat on a table, applying pigments with sticks and palette knives or straight from the tube. Small geometric shapes in white paint are overlaying a textured surface. This painting was referred to a picture based writing system as a primal means of communication. (Philadelphia Museum of Art)

-‘Gothic Landscape‘, 1961 => This painting was made by Krasner shortly after the death of her husband Jackson Pollock.  Here she applied  violent and expressive gestural brushstrokes that reflect her feelings of grief.

Hans Hartung (1904 – 1989) a German-French painter known for his gestural and very linear abstract works.

-‘L36‘, 1957 shows the repetitive gestural strokes.
-‘T1963-R6‘, 1963  shows softer linear gestures in color alongside a softer lower shape, resembling an imaginary landscape. He scratched rhythmically and with sweeping lines into the top layer of a vinyl coating before it dried. A particular technique developed by him in the early 1960s.
=> Hartung believed in the association of this gestures with the natural world: “Our organic knowledge, whether it is of the flow of blood or of the force which is in a growing stem, finds its parallel, its equivalent, in what we create.” He rejected observation and memory as elements for painting and relied on his spontaneous feeling and direct physical action.

Willem De Kooning (1904 – 1997) a Dutch-American artist.
-‘Woman, I‘, 1950-2 is one of the famous series ‘Woman’ by De Kooning. Made with expressive broad brushstrokes the form of figure is threatening. In he context of C.G. Jung one could interpret this as the struggle between fear and attraction of a woman to man.  
The Visit’, 1966-7 made with bold expressive gestural and thick brushstrokes. The figure is hard to detect, ambiguous shapes do engage the observer with his/her own associations.

Albero Burri (1915 – 1995) an Italian painter and sculptor.

-‘Sacking and Red‘, 1954 is an abstract painting made with burlap sacks. The use of red was often associated by other to Burri’s previous job as doctor, but he denied those references as he strove for an art independent of references. What I believe is quite tricky as one is socially embedded in culture and not living in isolation. He described his painting as “a freedom attained, constantly consolidated, vigilantly guarded“. (Tate)



  • Unprimed canvas let the paint soak, lifting the support let it run.
  • Dripping and splashing as an intuitive act, an articulation of the conscious and unconscious mind.
  • Layering of paint to create texture and overlaying with drawing in paint for additional communication of narrative or meaning.
  • Gestural strokes with paint as an act of emotional expression.
  • Action painting as a direct painting approach to express ones inner experiences and tensions.
  • To differentiate chaos and pure inner expression from a balanced visual appeal of the final image the artist has to be make conscious and deliberate reflected actions. This is an aspect I feel I have to understand just by making and experimenting.


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