This work is registered in the Archives of Serge Poliakoff under no. 955071.
Painted in 1954, Composition abstraite exudes the compositional strength and understanding of form that is so characteristic of Serge Poliakoff's mature work. Mixing paint from pure pigment himself and relying purely on his intuition, Poliakoff intuitively covers the canvas with luminous layers of warm red, yellow and black colour. A professional musician until 1952, Poliakoff's paintings have a graceful asymmetry that results from his desire to create a picture in which all elements of colour, proportion, and form are completely resolved. This poise and balance, which he referred to as le silence complet, is evident in the ways in which the irregular slabs of warm colour interlock on the canvas. There is a latent vibrancy and harmonious energy to the piece, one that is achieved through refined tonal contrasts and carefully modelled organic shapes. Composition abstraite superbly reflects the artist's belief that 'space, not the artist, must model the forms. They must be part-sculpture, part-architecture. Geometric form must turn into organic form, and it's the inward pressure of space that does that. Space makes form - not the other way round' (S. Poliakoff, quoted in Serge Poliakoff, Retrospective 1938-1963, exh. cat, Whitechapel Gallery, London, 1963, p. 15).
The brilliance of the colours employed by Poliakoff in this work testifies to the influence of his long standing friendships with the early exponents of abstraction, notably Sonia and Robert Delaunay and Wassily Kandinsky. 'If you let it, your colour will take charge of you,' Poliakoff once said, 'similarly with your forms: the spontaneous form for an artist to use is always an organic one, but you've got to be in control of it. A child will use all the colours in the box at once, instinctively, and if you don't want to make that same mistake you've got to on studying hard and for a long time. There is no such a thing as a system of pictorial construction, but there are certain universal laws that you can find out for yourself if you study the big masters long enough. It's the law, not the “system”, that counts’ (S. Poliakoff, quoted in Serge Poliakoff, Retrospective 1938-1963, exh. cat, Whitechapel Gallery, London, 1963, p. 13).