Fractal Expressionism

Richard Taylor  


     Fractal Expressionism

     Jack the Dripper


     Further Information



After fifty years of debate, the answer to Modern Art's greatest question has been delivered from an unexpected source - science.

Although the fractal tree patterns observed at different magnifications don't repeat exactly, they have similar visual characteristics.

In 1999, Professor Richard Taylor and his research team published the results of their scientific analysis that showed Pollock's dripped patterns to be fractal. Fractals consist of patterns which recur at finer and finer magnifications, building up shapes of immense complexity. Significantly, fractals are the basic building blocks of nature's scenery (for example, lightning, clouds, mountains and trees), earning the fractal the dramatic title of "the fingerprint of God". The eye-catching intricacy of even the most common fractal patterns, such as the tree shown in the left-hand figure, contrasts sharply with the simplicity of traditional man-made shapes such as circles, triangles and squares.


The identification of fractals within his infamous swirls of dripped paint completely rewrites the Pollock story.


Christened by Taylor as "Fractal Expressionism," Pollock distilled the essence of natural scenery and expressed it on his canvases with an unmatched directness. By adopting nature's pattern generation processes, the resulting paintings didn't mimic nature but instead stood as examples of nature. The figures below compare Pollock's fractals to those found in nature. Remarkably, the analysis revealed a highly systematic fractal painting process perfected by Pollock over ten years.


Taylor's discovery of Fractal Expressionism was greeted with considerable enthusiasm from the press, the public, and the scientific and artistic communities. A thirty minute documentary on his results was broadcast on national television in Australia (the homeland of Pollock's most controversial work Blue Poles). He received invitations from the Nobel Foundation, national galleries and museums to give lectures on his work and he gave radio interviews for international arts and science programs. He was commissioned to write articles for popular science magazines such as New Scientist, Physics World and Scientific American and his discovery featured in a range of other magazines including Nature, Science, Leonardo, Discover and national newspapers around the world.


Like a domino effect, the discovery raised more questions than it answered, with implications stretching well beyond that of Pollock and art.


Taylor's work triggered inquiries from a diverse range of people. With paintings valued at over $40 million, art galleries wanted to explore the technique's potential to authenticate Pollock's work. Art lovers wanted to know more about fractals and Pollock's painting style. Art theorists pondered the use of scientific objectivity to understand art. Psychologists were intrigued about how a human creates such intricate natural patterns - no one had achieved such a feat before! Architects wanted to learn of human responses to the aesthetics of fractal objects. Scientists and physicians were interested in analysis techniques applicable to fractals within biological systems.