Painted using the extraordinary technique of encaustic painting that Brauner developed at the end of the 1940s, Polarisation is a striking example of the artist’s rich visual language. The two totemic figures, one with stylised human characteristics and the other an unidentifiable mythical creature, create a strong heraldic symmetry that derives from the hieroglyphs of ancient temples, especially those of ancient South American cultures, whose art provided inspiration for Brauner throughout his career. Marcel Jean suggests that Brauner’s imagery is 'more cabbalistic than kabalist, and revealing (with an irony that was perhaps involuntary) the "spiritualistic" memories of his childhood, Brauner’s wax paintings borrow their themes from alchemy, from the tarot, from Egyptian designs, and from the codices of ancient Mexico' (M. Jean, The History of Surrealist Painting, London, 1960, p. 333).
During the Second World War, as was the case with many of the Surrealist painters with whom he was associated, Brauner left Paris and took refuge in the Basses-Alpes. The privations of his remote location led him to develop highly inventive techniques for creating pictures whereby pigment was mixed with molten wax. Into the resultant hardened surface, the artist then delicately incised lines with pen and ink. As Marcel Jean explains: 'with oil-paints unobtainable, he created paintings in wax, spreading a thin base of melted candle-grease on canvas or cardboard, and engraving on this surface a design accentuated afterwards by means of smoke black, the shapes themselves being coloured by lightly glazed hues' (ibid., p. 333). The outcome of these experiments can be seen in the richly textured surface and bright colours of Polarisation, where the overall effect is suggestive of an ancient cave painting in which conventional depth and modelling have been abandoned for bold shapes and alchemical effects.