Courbet's canvas


178 x 270 cm (70 1/16 x 106 5/16 in.)

At first glance, Courbet’s Canvas resembles a clear message that can be read in one glance. Guided by our instinct and obsession with meaning, we eagerly run our gaze over these multicoloured words. But the reading quickly becomes impossible to decipher, and the visual trap closes on us: partial words with letters so pale that they blend with the stains, the statement remains enigmatic and the meaning eludes us.

This painting, mixing oil and acrylic on canvas, takes shape in the conceptual work of Shûsaku Arakawa during the 1970s: his verbal artworks blur the lines to better explore the mental processes at the basis of human thought. A poetic work that challenges realistic art, doesn’t Courbet’s Canvas also challenge the truth of words and colours?

The painting Courbet’s Canvas by Shûsaku Arakawa belongs to the Pinault Collection. The work was first shown at the “Prima Materia” (“Raw Material”) exhibition at the Punta della Dogana.