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Art Theorist or Physicist?

Autumn Rhythm, Jackson Pollock

Jackson Pollock’s paintings mirror nature’s patterns, like branching trees, snowflakes, waves—and the structure of the human eye, says University of Oregon physicist Michael Taylor. Taylor, a self-proclaimed multidisciplinary thinker and problem solver, is a physicist/painter/photographer. It is through his unusual combination of talents he has been able to view Pollock’s Abstract Expressionist paintings from an “ordered chaos” perspective.

As a profession, Taylor studies the movement of electrical currents. While studying nanoelectronics, where currents create fractal patterns—an ordered chaos—Taylor made an astounding connection between Pollack’s splattered paintings and the flow of electrical currents. After closer study, Taylor determined that Pollack’s paintings are fractal and may explain why people find them so pleasing. As a man of science, Taylor conducted a study on human responses to fractal patterns. As he suspected, humans showed a positive response to images which contained a mathematical fractal dimension. Hence, our attraction to the soothing qualities of Pollock’s paintings and nature’s beauty. Since our exposure to Pollock’s paintings cannot be a daily ritual, Taylor’s remarks and advice seem very reasonable and healthy. “We need these natural patterns to look at and we’re not getting enough of them,” said Taylor. “As we increasingly surround ourselves with straight Euclidean built environments, we risk losing our connection to the natural stress-reducer that is visual fluency. It all adds up to yet another reason to bring greenery back to cities and get outside more often.”

To find out more about nature’s patterns, fractals, and Pollock’s paintings please visit Florence William’s article in The Atlantic.

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