Painted in 1953, Untitled is one of Jean-Paul Riopelle's breakthrough paintings, dating from the year that he began applying paint with the palette knife, inventing what would become his hallmark style. Unlike many of the works that Riopelle created in his early days of palette-knife paintings, Untitled has a sense of light, whereas many of its contemporaries are dominated by dark and glistening backgrounds. Here, Riopelle has suffused the work with shimmering light, reminiscent of the sun coming through a woodland canopy. Although he was a Canadian painter, and primarily interested in nature, Riopelle denied that his works referred to the dark, primeval forest that coats so much of his homeland. Instead, he grew up knowing less imposing woodlands, and this seems to be evident in Untitled, where the raw sense of nature is replaced by a dazzling, kaleidoscopic celebration of light and life. The tangled lines create a density that gives the work a sense of very real density, while the brightness invokes an airiness, a freedom, unlike the dark tangle of some of his other works.
Through his unique method of abstraction, Riopelle sought to capture some of the essence of both the painter, and nature itself. Paying too much attention to colour, to technique, to the finished product, would compromise the act of painting, the channeling of emotion and sensation. Riopelle, by spreading his own emotion, his own sensual enjoyment of nature, across the canvas, tried to bridge any gap between his medium and himself, hoping that this in turn would allow the viewer to share his own raw, unfettered experience. Riopelle did not consider this abstraction and in fact considered figurative art the more abstract for its attempt to ape nature, instead of channeling it. "My paintings that are considered the most abstract," Riopelle stated, "are the most representational in the strictest sense of the term. Conversely, are those paintings whose meanings we believe we are able to read - the geese, the owls, the moose - not actually more abstract than the rest? Abstract: 'abstraction,' 'taken from,' 'to bring from'... I work the other way round. I do not take from Nature, I move toward Nature." (J.-P. Riopelle, in: M. Waldberg, 'Riopelle. The Absolute Gap', in: Y. Riopelle, Jean-Paul Riopelle. Catalogue raisonné 1939-1953, Vol. I, Montreal 1999, p. 42.)