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Composition abstraite, 1969

gouache on paper

Composition abstraite is a painting dated 1969, the year of Poliakoff's death. It is thus one of his last works and represents the completion of a lifetime of work. As the title indicates, the composition of the painting is not figurative, but is based on a few straightforward color forms. Poliakoff chooses primary, bold colors, all of which stand out thanks to the presence of the black shape in the center. Black is treated as a color in its own right and its use in Poliakoff's work is important, reminiscent of the work of Schneider or Soulages at the same time. It reveals the neighboring colors as much as it reveals itself: one can truly speak of "black-light" here, according to Soulages' expression. The central presence of black is reinforced by white and by the choice of primary colors. The way in which the colors are applied, with gouache undoubtedly diluted in water, recalls this idea of light: the multiplication of brushstrokes makes the paint sparkle, giving it the impression of disappearing and reappearing constantly as the viewer's eye wanders over the canvas. Can we speak of a flat color in this painting, i.e., a single color? Or should we speak of the juxtaposition of a multitude of colored points?

Geometric forms are common in Poliakoff's work, and more generally in the work of the artists of the New School of Paris. The artist surprises the viewer by playing with reserved out forms, such as the central white figure in the painting. Although this figure is painted white, it gives the impression that the artist has left a whole section of the painting, a central section, empty. He reverses what the viewer expects. Composition abstraite is in line with the reflections of post-painterly abstraction. Poliakoff's work is self-aware, playing with the surface of the canvas. It is an artwork that "functions" with basic painting elements only: form, colors, textures, composition, format... Any reference to the outside world is removed to concentrate only on the space of the canvas. The painting Composition abstraite is part of a new era of abstract painting, more pure but also very solitary.

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