top of page

gouache on paper, 1969

The choice of yellow is always quite particular with Poliakoff because he manages to give it a golden aspect, an effect that he creates thanks to the vibration of the strokes and the different incursions of white. In short, he manages to create very bright lights. He greatly admires Simone Martini, a primitive Italian painter in whose work the golden backgrounds are of an unparalleled quality. He is also very inspired by the ancient Egyptian sarcophagi, not only by the technique of juxtaposition of pictorial layers, but also by the choice of colors. Here, the choice of straightforward, almost primary colors recalls the sarcophagi, on which the dominant colors were often gold, blue and red, each color carrying a symbolism. In Poliakoff's work too, color has a meaning, but it is less literal than in ancient Egypt. It has a meaning in the space of the canvas, in relation to the other colors present and according to the form that the painter makes it take.

In this painting, Poliakoff seems to be inspired by a well-known process in figurative painting: the repulsive foreground. This is a method that applies dark or intense colors on the edges of the canvas in order to highlight the center of the painting. The trajectory of the eye is quite precise in this kind of painting: the eye starts at the bottom, explores the red sides of the painting from top to bottom, before returning to the center of the canvas. Here the main motif seems to be this white geometric figure, which, even though it is painted, seems to be a reserved out figure. Poliakoff sometimes uses this procedure: whether or not he paints a white motif, he gives the impression of leaving a whole part of the canvas empty. In a way, the main element of the painting, or at least the one that attracts the most attention, is made of nothing, of no paint. It is a painting that plays with traditional processes but still surprises the viewer. Poliakoff does not only play with the material of the paint, but also with the material of the canvas itself. As is often the case, he plays with the effects of surface and texture, pushing the reflection even further by playing with the support of the painting itself.

bottom of page