Energy and Motion

The Energy and Motion series by Allan Banford features Jackson Pollock, On August 11, 1956, American painter Paul Jackson Pollock died in a car crash while under the influence of alcohol. Just 44, he had already received widespread publicity and serious recognition for the radical poured, or “drip,” technique and the unconventional types of painting technique of pouring or splashing liquid household paint onto a horizontal surface, enabling him to view and paint his canvases from all angles.

Allan Banford has developed an algorithm that mimics Pollock’s movement and timing, generating a continuous artwork based on energy and motion made visible, emulating memories arrested in space, based on the artwork Number 5.

Allan Banford Fullscreen

Number 5, 1948 The painting was created on fibreboard, also known as composition board, measuring 8’ x 4’. For the paint, Pollock chose to use liquid paints. More specifically, they were synthetic resin paints (gloss enamel) but are referred to as oil paints for classification of the work. On inspection, it was grey, brown, white and yellow paint drizzled in a way that many people still perceive as a “dense bird’s nest”.

The painting has been modified by Pollock since it was originally created. During January 1949, it was being shown in a solo Pollock show at the Betty Parsons gallery. It was from here that Alfonso A. Ossorio decided to purchase a “paint drip” composition; he chose No. 5, 1948 and paid $1,500. It was the only canvas sold from the show. 

At some point, presumably during the moving process, the painting became damaged, according to Grace Hartigan. “Home Sweet Home [the shipping company] came in with a painting in one hand and a lump of paint from the centre of the painting on the other hand”. Hartigan gave Pollock some paint and he patched the painting before it went to Ossorio, saying “He’ll never know, never know”. When the painting was subsequently delivered to Ossorio, he claimed that he noticed “a portion of the paint – actually the skin from the top of an opened paint can – had slid” leaving a “nondescript smear amidst the surrounding linear clarity,” as he explained in a 1978 lecture at Yale. Pollock offered to rework the painting but, according to Hartigan, he “repainted the whole thing again” and stated that “He’ll never know. No one knows how to look at my paintings, he won’t know the difference.”

After three weeks, Ossorio visited Pollock’s studio to inspect the painting. Ossorio was confronted with an artwork which was repainted onto fiberboard, with “new qualities of richness and depth” as a result of Pollock’s “thorough but subtle repainting.” It was clear that Ossorio still liked the painting despite the rework, and continued to attest that the “original concept remained unmistakably present, but affirmed and fulfilled by a new complexity and depth of linear interplay. It was, and still is a masterful display of control and disciplined vision.” Pollock repaired the damage to the painting by completely repainting the original, in contrast to how other artworks are repaired. The reconstruction had not only retained but reinforced the metaphysical concept of the painting, and has become what Ossorio calls “a wonderful example of an artist having a second chance”.

Allan Banford
Number 5, Jackson Pollock (1948).


The lyrics of The Stone Roses song “Going Down” includes a reference to the painting: “(There) she looks like a painting – Jackson Pollock’s Number 5…” The Stone Roses’ guitarist John Squire created the cover artwork for many of the band’s releases on Silvertone Records in a style similar to that of Jackson Pollock.

The painting played a central role in the film Ex Machina (2015). Nathan Bateman (Oscar Isaac), the wealthy tech firm CEO, uses this painting as an object lesson for the protagonist Caleb Smith (Domhnall Gleeson) noting that No. 5, 1948 would never have come into existence if Jackson Pollock only painted what he already knew. This is contrasted to the way an AI comes to know, thus emphasizing the problem of consciousness and epistemology.