Jules de Balincourt
Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac
September 8 - October 18, 2014
By BLAIRE DESSENT, OCT. 2014
Blue hour describes that dreamy, twilight moment at dawn or dusk, when the colors in the sky shift, and there is a sense of feeling suspended in time, between the before and after. Blue Hour is also the title of Jules de Balincourt’s third solo show with Thaddaeus Ropac Gallery in Paris, which opened on September 8. The exhibition presents a series of nineteen new paintings that are bathed in this blue hour moment, very moody and atmospheric, almost as if they are lost in time.
De Balincourt, who prefers wooden supports to canvas, paints directly onto the surface without sketches or photographs, building his universe up from acidy pastels, minty greens, and beautiful purple-blue hues. The imagery varies widely from small, sparsely populated paintings to larger, hyper-surreal works, with a slight ominous quality that resonates throughout. Even if he paints groups of people, there is often a sense of man alone in the universe, and an uncertain relationship to the nature that surrounds these souls.
In several paintings, one gets the impression of witnessing a preview of future climate change disasters and the survivors, or the new settlers, who are making their island refuge. The Island Where Everyone wants to be Saved, 2014, literally shows the top of a small, red island being submerged into the sea. Boats swarm around it and the tops of other submerged buildings where people stand with their arms up as if trying to be saved.
In Colonial Island, 2014, the stern, purple washed profile view of an unknown person floats above an island, the hair dripping into the tops of the trees, the landscape filtering back into her cheekbones. A multitude of small figures dot the center of the painting, all of whom seem to all be moving boxes or suitcases from one boat to another one on the opposite side of the island. Are these settlers seeking a new life after the storm? Tourists simply on an island adventure, an escape from city life? Who is this figure overseeing this exchange?
De Balincourt has a strong, painterly style, able to capture so much in the tiniest flecks of paint. A magnifying lens would be useful to let us investigate some of the minute features in more detail. He moves deftly between jokey social commentary, as with Looking for Jesus and Osama, 2014, a colorful portrait mash-up that could be the next spiritual guru for these new settlers, and a more serious reflection on society, as with Misfit Island, 2014, one of the more haunting and political paintings in the show. Here he presents the face of man painted in deep shades of blues, blacks, and umbers and set against the background of a deep, blue sea. Tiny boats dot the canvas, passing through the face, inserting themselves into his lines and creases. It suggests the precarious journey so many immigrants make, whether the recent wave from Africa to Europe, or the history of Ellis Island.
We Come Here to Forget, 2014, is the only painting in the exhibition depicting an interior scene. In a grand room of a museum-like setting, people lay on the large Oriental carpet in various states of repose. There is a couple engaged in conversation while leaning up against the base of a classical looking statue. A table holds the remnants of something, perhaps food and drinks? Debris scatters the floor. What is going on here? Is it a post-apocalyptic safe zone for the last remaining citizens? A special all-night at the museum party? De Balincourt leaves us in the mystery.
Blue Hours is an intriguing and alluring exhibition. It can be rare these days to encounter paintings that hold our attention for so long. De Balincourt makes the viewer feel as if they have been made privy to some secret world from which they are able to imagine their own version to this unexplained scenario. The exhibition is on view through October 18, 2014. WM
Blaire Dessent was born in La Jolla, California and settled in Paris in 2008 after ten years in New York City where she worked in contemporary art. She was formerly the Director for the Art Omi International Artists’ Residency, a non-profit arts organization based in Columbia County, New York. Her current project is The Vitrine, www.thevitrine.com, a creative platform for talented makers and thoughtfully designed objects. She holds a Masters in Art History from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn.
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