Some of the features on this page require that JavaScript be enabled.
view previous artwork view next artwork
Multiplane Structurist Relief V, No. 1
inspiration, structurist sculpture, controversial artwork, art in a public setting, public art, Saskatchewan environment bas-relief, form and colour, elements of art, light, colour, shadow, painting surface, prairie winter influence, character of a place, plexiglass, acrylic enamel, "Structurist" magazine, structurist style of art, commission, abstract sculpture, metal relief painting sculpture, metal relief sculpture, Regina Bornstein sculpture, artist response to nature, landscape characterizes a place, 3-dimensional form, Wascana Centre sculpture, "winter in Saskatchewan" sculpture, controversial commission, Tree of Knowledge sculpture, Saskatoon Saskatchewan, Saskatoon artist commission, relief sculpture, elements of art, painting,

In 1984, Bornstein stated, “I’m very much a part of the natural environment. I live in the country and it’s a very important part of my work. The inspiration for the works that I do, although abstract, comes from nature and my response to the Saskatchewan environment. I feel a strong attachment to the Prairies and the uniqueness of the Prairies. The skies, the landscape and even the austerity of the winters have something to do with the character of the place that is very special.” (Rusnell, 1984)

Bornstein borrows ideas from artists like Paul Cezanne (cubism) and Piet Mondrian (neo-plasticism) and breaks down his natural environment into a  seriesA number of things or events standing or succeeding in order, and connected by a like relation; sequence; order; course; a succession of things; as, a continuous series of calamitous events. (The Online Plain Text English Dictionary)  of patterns and planes to create his unique art form. He constructs his  bas-reliefSculpture in which part of the surface projects from a flat plane.  paintings by uniting simplified three-dimensional  formIn its widest sense, total structure; a synthesis of all the visible aspects of that structure and of the manner in which they are united to create its distinctive character. The form of a work is what enables us to perceive it. Form also refers to an element of art that is three-dimensional (height, width, and depth) and encloses volume. For example, a triangle, which is two-dimensional, is a shape, but a pyramid, which is three-dimensional, is a form. Cubes, spheres, ovoids, pyramids, cone, and cylinders are examples of various forms. Also, all of the elements of a work of art independent of their meaning. Formal elements are primary features which are not a matter of semantic significance — including colour, dimensions, line, mass, medium, scale, shape, space, texture, value; and the principles of design under which they are placed — including balance, contrast, dominance, harmony, movement, proportion, proximity, rhythm, similarity, unity, and variety. (  and flat  colourProduced by light of various wavelengths, and when light strikes an object and reflects back to the eyes. Colour is an element of art with three properties: (1) hue or tint, the colour name, e.g., red, yellow, blue, etc.: (2) intensity, the purity and strength of a colour, e.g., bright red or dull red; and (3) value, the lightness or darkness of a colour. When the spectrum is organized as a color wheel, the colours are divided into groups called primary, secondary and intermediate (or tertiary) colours; analogous and complementary, and also as warm and cool colours. Colours can be objectively described as saturated, clear, cool, warm, deep, subdued, grayed, tawny, mat, glossy, monochrome, multicolored, particolored, variegated, or polychromed. Some words used to describe colours are more subjective (subject to personal opinion or taste), such as: exciting, sweet, saccharine, brash, garish, ugly, beautiful, cute, fashionable, pretty, and sublime. Sometimes people speak of colours when they are actually refering to pigments, what they are made of (various natural or synthetic substances), their relative permanence, etc. (  on a  two-dimensionalHaving height and width, but no depth; flat. (  surface. This combination of elements creates an interaction of light, colour, and  shadowDark value of a colour made by adding black.  on the  paintingWorks of art made with paint on a surface. Often the surface, also called a support, is either a tightly stretched piece of canvas or a panel. How the ground (on which paint is applied) is prepared on the support depends greatly on the type of paint to be used. Paintings are usually intended to be placed in frames, and exhibited on walls, but there have been plenty of exceptions. Also, the act of painting, which may involve a wide range of techniques and materials, along with the artist's other concerns which effect the content of a work. (  surface. The viewing of each painting/structure can change depending on the light available at a particular time of day or season of the year.

start a continuation of further development of the great landscape tradition, painting at an abstract level and in a three-dimensional medium.end quote -- Eli Bornstein

Bornstein’s paintings are meticulously created with a precision that appears to eliminate any trace of the human touch. His early works were made with wood components but the slick clean finish of enamel or  acrylicSynthetic paints, with pigments dispersed in a synthetic vehicle made from polymerized acrylic acid esters, the most important of which is polymethyl methacrylate. First used by artists in the late 1940s, their use has come to rival that of oil paints because of their versatility. They can be used on nearly any surface, in transparent washes or heavy impasto, with matte, semi-gloss, or glossy finishes. Acrylic paints dry quickly, do not yellow, are easily removed with mineral spirits or turpentine, and can clean up with soap and water.(  on aluminium and Plexiglas has been his choice of  mediumAny material and technique used to produce a work of art (paint, glass, clay, fibre, video, sound, etc.). It may also refer to the liquid with which powdered pigments are mixed to make paint. Note that the plural form of “medium” is “media.”  for many years.

Bornstein not only invented the term “structurist”, he also founded a magazine called The Structurist, in 1960, which continues to be published today. The magazine’s masthead states that “…The Structurist is concerned with the building processes of creation in Art and Nature. It focuses upon ideas relating to architecture and the arts - including painting, sculpture, design, photography, music and literature - their histories and relationships to each other, as well as to science, technology, and Nature.” In the words of Bornstein in the first issue of Structurist, “[it] is involved in the visual “how“ of nature, not the visual “what…”

In the 1950s, Bornstein was  commissionedA contract between an artist and an individual. The artist agrees to create an image or design for the individual for a predetermined price.  to build what became the first  abstractImagery which departs from representational accuracy, to a variable range of possible degrees. Abstract artists select and then exaggerate or simplify the forms suggested by the world around them.  (   sculptureA three-dimensional work of art, or the art of making it. Such works may be carved, modeled, constructed, or cast. Sculptures can also be described as assemblage, in the round, and relief, and made in a huge variety of media. A sculptor is one who creates sculptures. (  in Saskatoon. He designed a 26-foot aluminum sculpture titled, Growth Motif to be placed at the entrance to the Saskatchewan Teacher’s Federation (STF) office. This sculpture, also known as the “tree of knowledge“, was erected in 1958 and was met with a high level of controversy. A letter-writing campaign to the local paper resulted and at one point the sculpture was vandalized. Some time later, the  sculptureA three-dimensional work of art, or the art of making it. Such works may be carved, modeled, constructed, or cast. Sculptures can also be described as assemblage, in the round, and relief, and made in a huge variety of media. A sculptor is one who creates sculptures. (  was adopted as the official  symbolVisual image that represents something else.  of the STF and is still used as the logo on all of their official correspondence.

In Regina, an example of Bornstein’s work can be seen at the Wascana Centre Authority Administration building. This structurist metal  reliefA type of sculpture in which forms projects from a background. There are three degrees or types of relief: high, low, and sunken. In high relief, the forms stand far out from the background. In low relief (best known as bas-relief), they are shallow. In sunken relief, also called hollow or intaglio; the backgrounds are not cut back and the points in highest relief are level with the original surface of the material being carved. (  painting/sculpture is large (1500 kilograms) and is suspended down the center of the three-story building. It represents winter in Saskatchewan in a typical Bornstein structurist way.

additional resources Things to Think About


  • Imagine this!  How would the Bornstein's work change if it were lit from the side? From the bottom?
  • Is one area or mark on the painting more prominent than any others?  How does the artist do this?  Why might he do this?
Studio Activity
Hello, you either have JavaScript turned off or an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.

Study shadows

        • Draw the objects and the shadows created by the objects creating a large tonal drawing.

          Build a structurist painting in the style of Bornstein

          • Using heavy cardboard, experiment with horizontals and verticals as well as diagonals, shadows and colour.

          Microscope observations

          • Look in a microscope and observe structures in nature.

          Design an art work incorporating shadow