Composition néo-plastique no 5A exemplifies Cesar Domela's pictorial research during the second half of the 1920's perfectly.
Towards the end of 1923 Domela left Berlin for Paris, where the studio of Henri Laurens, an artist he already knew since he was fourteen years old, was at his temporary disposal. Some time later, Laurens together with Christian Zervos introduced him to Piet Mondrian and Theo van Doesburg. After seeing his works, they invited him to join the group De Stijl. Domela's entry coincided with the famous controversy between Mondrian and Van Doesburg, concerning the appliance of the diagonal way of composing. Although he was a very close friend with Mondrian and he had a great admiration for the metaphysical aspect of his work, he seems to have been less at ease with the theories and ideological foundations of Mondrian's neo-plasticism. The path of abstraction was already clearly marked out for Domela when he left Berlin for Paris, he was aware of the universality of his art and would venture into his own pictorial research. Alain Clairet says about Domela's views diverging with those of Mondrian: 'He (Domela) was undoubtedly attracted to an art in search of universal principles, an art that had become universally legible, which expressed the balanced relationship between the individual and the universal and was but the 'sheer manifestation of what is unchangeable (...). Although there is no doubt that, for Domela, a work of art must be the plastic expression of balanced relationships based upon the opposition of colours and lines, it is very unlikely that he ever adhered to the idea that nature is the point of departure in a picture, the place where the discovery of the right angle -the intersection of the line of the horizon and that which connects the horizon and the moon- originates. Finally, although there is no doubt again that Domela was searching for an art permeated with some spirituality, in which the unity between the sprit and the matter would be attained, it is equally unlikely that he was ever close to the hazy, theosophical theories of the Neo-plasticists' (Clairet, op.cit. p. 20-21).
It must be stressed though that Domela was not the only one of De Stijl persuing his own research. Most of the other members did too, taking little heed of the initial doctrines. But according to Clairet: '... such divergent opinions do not seem to have affected the adhesion of the group nor the relationships among individuals within it. In fact, they continued to enjoy meeting around Mondrian who inspired both respect and admiration. Besides, Domela writes: 'By stating personal views on Neo-plasticism in his writings, Mondrian was in no way trying to force a manifesto on his fellow artists.'' (quoted in Clairet, op.cit. p. 22).
Composition néo-plastique no 5A shows elements very original to Domela's hand in this period of experiment, for instance by juxtaposing colour planes without using black separating lines. The work appears to be in a perfect compositional balance. The artist once explained what Neo-plasticism should comprise: 'A harmonious balance, in the distribution of planes, in colour and in form' (quoted in Clairet, op.cit. p. 265).