An image never represents a mere idea; it is never just an illustration. Thinking is constructed, shaped, and always develops through imagery. No thought comes to light, nor indeed casts a shadow, without being caused by an image, which itself becomes an insightful synthesis of a dimension of humanity. In this series (“Icons”), edited by Massimo Cacciari, authors from different backgrounds explore great icons of our cultural heritage – such as works by Mantegna, Pollock, Caravaggio, and Kiefer – that relate to key issues of our times.
Is it a mere tangle of randomness and uncertainty, or does it have a direction, perhaps even an underlying plan? This is the question that every individual asks at least once in observing his or her path in life. As we stand in front of a painting by Jackson Pollock, this is exactly what we would like to understand: is it the result of randomly dripped splashes of colour, or are those splashes meant to express something? Pollock is a symbol of pure energy, which only the rough and rural West could have produced. He forces us to reflect on the eternal interplay between order and chance, a game where we all play at mid-field: our initially rational intentions succumb to chaos and a range of event possibilities. We end up following a path that seems inexorable: whatever happens was pre-ordained and could not occur any differently, as in the perfection of Jackson Pollock’s “Number 1A”.
Paolo Legrenzi is professor emeritus of Psychology at the Ca’ Foscari University in Venice.