Reggio Emilia

Jules de Balincourt, Waiting Tree, 2012, oil and acrylic on panel, 78 x 87".

Jules de Balincourt, Waiting Tree, 2012, oil and acrylic on panel, 78 x 87".

Jules de Balincourt

Jules de Balincourt, Waiting Tree, 2012, oil and acrylic on panel, 78 x 87".

“Parallel Universe,” Jules de Balincourt’s first solo show at an Italian institution, includes five paintings from 2012, each different in subject and content. That all were painted around the same time helps make it clear that this body of work may be wide-ranging thematically but is consistent in terms of its pictorial syntax. The canvases exhibited in Reggio Emilia echo one another, as if in reciprocal expectation that the painting process will lead to results that, however different, are complementary. Moreover, it seems that the artist has been working to distance himself from daily events and to translate the themes of his paintings on a universal level.

One sign of this lies in the terrestrial spheres depicted in Big Globe Painting and Globe Faces, which, unlike the artist’s US World Studies II, 2005, are not Alighiero Boetti–like cartographic representations meant to reveal the geopolitical aspects of a region, but, rather, fanciful manifestations of a universe dense with echoes of Surrealism. This orientation is pushed even further in Burst Painting, an abstract vision of the cosmos that manages to merge a Futurist graphic energy with a Pop sense of color. These qualities also surface in Psychedelic Soldier. Unlike Burst Painting, where vector lines extend over the canvas from a central core, opening outward and suggesting an idea of movement, in Psychedelic Soldier the areas of color form a sort of camouflage that even invests the warrior’s face, distributed in static fields and freezing his features as in a film’s frame. The image avoids any specific historical reference but more generally constitutes a reflection on the theme of identity in the context of the battle of life, holding contingent facts at a distance.

De Balincourt’s pursuit of universality culminates in Waiting Tree, a work that, perhaps better than any other in the exhibition, reveals the artist’s poetics and the direction of his most recent work. The painting, which initially focused on a group of young musicians performing at an Occupy protest—a very topical subject—slowly became more and more removed from the image at its origin, attaining an expanded dimension in time and space. Thanks to the repeated erasures and layerings of paint used to make up the final result, the composition took on the features of a landscape dominated by an immense tree, so large its branches extend beyond the boundaries of the frame, emphasizing their centripetal energy and profuse life. In this case, too, de Balincourt engages in a virtual dialogue with such early-twentieth-century art movements as Futurism (in his study of movement) and again Surrealism (in the figures that surface from the background, as if they were executed via frottage), clearly explicating some of the cultural references pertinent to his formation—and reminding us of the perennial nature of this search for universal expression.

Pier Paolo Pancotto

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.