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Painted in 1950, Jackson Pollock's Number 18 offers a classic and defining rendering of his most colourful ‘action’ or ‘drip’ art, so named due to his method of allowing paint to fall onto a horizontally-placed canvas or paper.
Executed in household alkyd enamels, Number 18 typifies the subtle use of Pollock’s technique. The strong colours contrast with the canvas and weave intricate patterns of fine and stronger elements which have clearly been applied in a considered and rhythmic manner.
The title is derived from Pollock’s decision in 1948 to assign only numbers, not full titles, to his works; this decision was representative of the artist’s drive to ensure that his work spoke for itself, rather than be judged by its ability to meet the expectations conjured by a title.
Number 18 illustrates a maturity of the artist’s technique of dripping and pouring paint onto the canvas. The fluidity of the lines and forms created in this manner is testament to the rhythmic manner in which Pollock worked. A jazz enthusiast, Pollock would play jazz records constantly whilst working, the music allowing him to create movements that would allow the application of paint in an organized manner.
This habit is testament to the ill judgement of those who viewed Pollock’s work of this era as hap hazard and disorganised. The application of the paint is done in a manner that speaks of carefully controlled action and of decisions being made as to the course of those actions.
At the same time as using rhythm to inform his painting Pollock also strove to free himself of the material constraints of form, communicating with his subconscious and allowing it to be channelled through music and his movement. The results are dramatic and unique.
Number 18 is a masterful work epitomising a unique style and technique. The work predates Pollock’s darkest period, characterised by the series of works executed only with black paint, and the demons of depression and alcoholism which would eventually kill him by automobile accident in 1956.