Paul-Émile Borduas

3+3+4, 1956

Artist
Paul-Émile Borduas
Title
3+3+4
Dimensions and medium
Oil on canvas, 60 × 73 cm
Artwork description
While living in Paris during the second half of the 1950s, Paul-Émile Borduas began his black and white paintings. One of the first works associated with this final phase of his career, 3+3+4 is a notable example of the artist’s achievement at gradually eliminating colour to explore the “reversible” and relational space created by the interchangeability of black and white planes. By establishing a push-pull effect between black forms and white background — which Borduas identified with the representation of space as a continuous and undefined entity — these highly-textured palette knife works emphasize the play of light modulating across the built-up surface of the canvas. The title 3+3+4 refers to the grouped order in which the painting can be read. The three central black forms should be perceived together, much like the ones at the bottom of the painting. The gaze moves from the centre to the periphery before moving to the corners, where four individual shapes are found. While the central and lower shapes seem to float above the white background, the peripheral ones are truncated by the edges of the painting, therefore blurring the hierarchical figure/ground relationship.

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