Important late works are juxtaposed with a small selection of works from 1950 and 1951, in order to illustrate the circular nature of Poliakoff’s practice. By pairing certain works together what becomes apparent is a distinct return to form. Poliakoff made a decisive departure into pure abstraction following a period of study in London in the mid-1930s. From 1950, his paintings explored simple forms, floating in harmonious compositions and made from pure colour, which the artist returned to and explored further at the very end of his career. These latter paintings, often referred to as ‘silent paintings’, exemplify a language of abstraction in which colour is paramount. Speaking of these works, Poliakoff stated: “It is not necessary to explain these paintings, nor to write about them – it is right to remain silent, your works should speak for themselves”.
Serge Poliakoff is considered one of the most important members of the School of Paris. Having fled the Russian Revolution in 1917, Poliakoff first travelled to Constantinople before arriving in Paris in 1923, where he spent most of his life. He began studying painting while earning a living as a musician, enrolling at the Académie Forchot and Académie de la Grande Chaumière in Paris 1929. Poliakoff studied at the Slade School of Art after relocating to London in 1935, and it was here that the artist discovered abstract painting, as well as the importance of layering colour.
The exhibition is accompanied by a new fully illustrated catalogue, including a text by the artist’s granddaughter, Marie Victoire Poliakoff.
Poliakoff exhibited extensively throughout his life, and has continued to do so posthumously. His work is included in numerous important public collections internationally. In 2013 the Musee d’art Moderne in Paris organised a large-scale survey of the artist’s work, in recognition of the artist’s importance within the school of Post-War European Abstraction, as well as to acknowledge his lasting influence.
Serge Poliakoff was born in Moscow in 1903. He died in Paris in 1969.