Travel Reference
In-Depth Information
donné un enseignement capital qui nous manquait. Il a délié en nous la
liberté.' (187; Modern French-Canada begins with him. He gave us a
capital lesson that we were missing. He released liberty within us.)
Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that Borduas unleashed 'lib-
eration,' since, for him freedom is less an ideal to be sought than a goal
to be constructed, as Vadeboncoeur goes on to explain: 'il nous a fait la
théorie et l'illustration de l'illimité!' (190; he provided us with a theory
and illustration of the unlimited!)
Borduas's own paintings, 'illustrations' of his freedom and of the un-
limited power of imagination, often feature the tree, particularly in the
landscapes of his early work, hardly surprising for a student of Ozias
Leduc (chapter four). Not only did he copy Leduc's Arbre de vie in 1927,
but the tree is a central figure in several of his first non-representational
( (non-figuratif) ) oil paintings, including the well-known Les arbres dans la
nuit from 1943 (plate 8). From a formal standpoint, the darkness of
night is rendered by a black ground applied first over the entire canvas
in broad strokes, then modulated with swathes of brown and purple.
Set against this background stand two erect, tapered forms of light tone
with protuberances forked upward, which appear tree-like to the spec-
tator (aided by the title), much as they must have to Borduas (aided by
visual memory). They are denuded and white, as if struck by lightning,
recalling the tree in Leduc's Le cumulus bleu , yet they remain steadfast,
elegant, and luminous, creating a positive image against the seemingly
negative background. Surrounding them are several unidentifiable yet
suggestive geomorphic forms: the trees seem to stand on a circular plat-
form, a pedestal or island isolated from the surrounding sea of dark-
ness; to the right, closing the composition, is a blade-like vertical form,
also of light tone, which may suggest another tree, itself bordered by a
green band implanted with dark circles, which are matched by those on
the 'handle' of another form with the air of a scythe, closing the top of
the composition. The vertical 'tree' to the right leans towards the two
others and nearly touches the upper arc of the blade, forming a sort of
arch for the two 'trees' in the middle and for a set of yellow strokes
whose formlessness and loose contours suggest the pent-up motion of
charges of energy. Adjacent to the right form is a three-pronged figure
whose flesh-like colour and digital protrusions suggest a hand, set im-
mediately over a red square; both colours are picked up by a bent oval
to the left, above which are two red biomorphic, lip-like ovals with
dark centres; in the middle of the canvas, on each side of the tree are
two white, luminous circular forms, which flank the central trees as if
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