This magnificent painting is a stunningly original example of a composition in the shape of a cross. The horizontal bar seems to traverse the canvas from left to right, stopping before it reaches the edge. The emphatic green upright starts near the bottom and ends just above the black arc of the horizontal bar. This, at least, is the illusion created by these two planes, for they were actually painted in the opposite direction.
In 1959, Borduas viewed painting as a form of writing. The rectangle of the canvas was a blank page, and the painted elements were signs. The white is therefore the void, metaphysical nothingness – one of the central themes of Asian philosophy. The semantic meaning of the painting is concentrated in the painted sign. Here, a sort of atheistic cross asserts the authority of the painter's gesture, proclaiming the triumph of mind over matter.
© Estate of Paul-Émile Borduas / SOCAN (2020)