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to illuminate them, or emanate from them, or dart between them from
the darkness behind. The central forms themselves, apart from any ob-
jects they may denote, already have considerable suggestive power,
given their verticality, tapering, position, solidity, pairing, light tonality,
and duplication in the collateral forms, whose bright colours enliven
the canvas. Despite their diversity the forms are harmonized by match-
ing shapes, often in pairs, of similar colour, tone, size, and direction.
The result is a unified composition that is positive and vibrant, even
elating, despite the alien forms that resist interpretation, which, none-
theless, the spectator feels compelled to attempt. In a book on Borduas
published the same year as this painting, Robert Élie's assessment suits
it well: 'L'artiste se plaît parfois à lancer dans la nuit un bel objet qui n'a
de réalité d'ordinaire qu'au grand jour. Ces objets peuvent servir de
points de repère, de mesure de profondeur, mais le spectateur ne s'y
arrête pas. Il pénètre dans un immense cercle vivant qui rayonne tout
autour de l'objet transformé et c'est un merveilleux déploiement de
formes et de couleurs, qui transforment ces objets en signes révélateurs
tout animés par la nuit.' (11-12; The artist often takes pleasure in
launching into the night a beautiful object that would only appear real
in broad daylight. These objects may serve as reference points, as depth
soundings, but the spectator doesn't stop there: he enters into an im-
mense living circle radiating all around the transfigured object making
for a marvellous deployment of shapes and colours that transform
these objects into revelatory signs fully animated by the night.)
Whether one can (or should) attempt to decode these 'signs,' to lend
these 'trees' more precise meaning is a conjectural but potentially fruit-
ful avenue, the exploration of which is encouraged by the title and by
Borduas's very artistry, as Marcel Saint-Pierre opines: 'La promenade
interprétative dans l'instance du non-verbal est sans relâche déplacée
par la lecture. Telle est la conséquence à laquelle convie le geste de créa-
tion: la connaissance sensible.' (22; The interpretive processing of the
non-verbal is constantly altered by reading. The consequence engen-
dered by the creative gesture is thus: perceptible understanding.) This
interpretative enterprise should be undertaken cautiously and enter-
tain both multiple possibilities and fundamental contradictions, ever-
present elements of Quebec writing and painting. One can then seek
the common denominators and the striking exceptions that may point
to traits of collective and individual identity.
Borduas's method of painting by instinct, without preconceived no-
tions ('intentions') of subject, form, or composition, leads Gagnon to
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