Tachism is a form of abstract expressionism in which the artist makes a spontaneous mark on the canvas (or other surface) using rapid, uncontrolled gestures. The resulting image is usually an abstract design or “non-representational” work.
Tachism emerged in Europe after World War II as a reaction to the strict confines of geometric abstraction and Surrealism. Artists such as Jean Dubuffet, Jackson Pollock, and Willem de Kooning explored the possibilities of uncontrolled gesture and paint application.
The term “tachism” (from the French word tache, meaning ” stain” or “spot”) was coined by French critic Pierre Restany in 1953 to describe the work of a group of artists who he felt were working in a similar style.
Tachism is sometimes seen as a precursor to Abstract Expressionism, as the two movements share similar aesthetic concerns. However, while Abstract Expressionism is characterized by large, gestural brushstrokes, Tachism is often more subtle and fragmented, making use of smaller brushstrokes or even a stabbing motion with the brush.
Tachism can also be distinguished from Abstract Expressionism in its greater emphasis on spontaneity and chance. For artists working in this style, the act of painting itself is often more important than the resulting work of art.