Painted a decade after he wrote the momentous Refus Global, and just two short years before his untimely death, Paul-Emile Borduas' Bombardement is a powerful work that represents the culmination of his artistic evolution. Speaking to his outspoken struggle against society's established expectations, this picture pulsates with profound depth of feeling and personal expression, while communicating some of Borduas' most significant aesthetic principles.
After publishing the defiant Refus Global, a clarion call for a separation between church and state in Quebec, Borduas was promptly dismissed from his teaching post at the École du Meuble. This event precipitated years of financial struggle, but it also catapulted him into the role of leader of the Automatiste avant-garde. Increasingly itinerant, Borduas spent long periods of time in New York and Paris in the 1950s, exchanging ideas with his international contemporaries in abstraction, including Franz Kline. It was during this time that he created the series of work to which Bombardement belongs.
Bombardement brilliantly demonstrates Borduas' technique of "reversibility," in which he creates a deliberate ambiguity between white shapes on a black background and black shapes on a white background; its simple tones and luscious impasto construct a composition of absolute balance and harmony. As a study in contrasts, this canvas resonates with the seemingly-contradictory qualities of both great precision and great impulsiveness. The movement and rhythmical composition play off the austerity of palette, opening up the image to endless interpretation: is Borduas portraying the undulating sound of musical scales, or the ebb and flow of the ocean's waves? The layers of meaning embedded in the layers of impasto make Bombardement a masterwork by this complex artist.
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