We arrived in front of Jules de Balincourt‘s studio, a 2-story building formerly the site of Starr Space in the heart of Bushwick. The studio expands the entire first floor of the building and is a large open space with lots of natural light streaming in from the skylight above. There’s a wooden stage built into the floor at the end of the room, a souvenir from Starr Space’s past performances.
Our first reaction was one of awe as we saw his new body of work, hung together in a salon style, giving it a different context than if hung in the white walls of a gallery space. The paintings stacked one atop another, gave us a glimpse of his process of painting effortlessly upon multiple paintings and moving in between each without hesitation. While we were taking everything in, de Balincourt was casually riding his skateboard and was perfectly at ease in his studio. We talked to Jules de Balincourt about his new body of work and about looking back and looking forward.
Jules de Balincourt’s first UK solo show, Itinerant Ones is on view starting today to December 20th at Victoria Miro Gallery. His work will also be exhibited at the Montréal Museum of Fine Arts from November 28th to March 23rd. For more of de Balincourt’s work, take a look at his latest book by the same name, published by Rizzoli Publications.
F: Your paintings are very multi-layered. How do you go about starting a painting? Do you start with an image in mind or do you start with a specific concept or is it more of an intuitive process?
JDB: Even though the images look really thought out and composed, most of the time, these pieces come from a purely intuitive place, a place where in the initial steps of making an image, there is no regard to space, place or regard to capturing something real. At first, it is a more primitive dance of sorts which eventually leaves chaos behind or something to respond to and react with.
F: Your work seems to be as much about drawing as it is about painting. There are a lot of steps that go into your paintings. Figures and objects come in and out of existence through the act of drawing, cutting, masking, painting and re-working each layer of the surface. How do you approach building up these images?
JDB: Usually I am working on ten pieces at once and bouncing around from one to another depending on my mood and which piece I am most compelled to work with. There are days when the tool of the trade is a big six inch wide brush with a bucket of washed out oil paint and loud music, other days or minutes later, a super fine three haired brush and the sound of silence.
F: Some of your paintings have become progressively lighter with more luminous washes like in Firepeople and Visionquest which consequently makes it easier to see the logic behind the way you construct each painting. Can you talk about this approach to painting versus your more labored intricate paintings such as in High and Low or in Itinerant Ones?
JDB: I think for a while using taping and masking became a bit of a crutch. So working on this show, I wanted to be more direct with making the work which meant not taping and masking as much and waiting days or weeks for paint to dry, since with the masking there is a tendency for paint to be thicker or that was the effect I was going for. In those two paintings you mentioned, instead of dragging it out for weeks by taping, I was able to work on them continuously every day and keeping my engagement with it fresh and painting directly more with the translucence of the paint and doing big washes compared to the denser more massive taped gesture. One is free and fluid and the other tight and dense…
F: In your new show, Itinerant Ones at Victoria Miro, the painting of Alex is scaled up to encompass the whole surface while in the figure on the beach paintings, the scale shifts so that the landscape takes up most of the space and the figures play a lesser role. What is the idea behind this dramatic change in scale?
JDB: In the last year I have slowly integrated large scale life size or larger then life figures. As a “figure” painter, it was something I was always fearful of or simply negated. I suppose “Alex” is different than most paintings in the sense that most people or places in my paintings are purely fictional and made up and Alex exists and happens to be a close friend. It seems most of my work always takes on this distant observational gaze and in this case, I wanted to get closer to the subject in a more intimate, not in the obvious sense of her being naked, but intimate in the sense that she is really looking at you and is larger then life, a life force that she is and am simply glorifying.
F: This new body of work steers away from some of the last show’s more charged subject matter. This world that your paintings live in is very serene. In this hazy ‘world’, the micro communities of indescript people are performing unidentifiable activities. The painting seems to be based on memories and looking back.
JDB: Essentially, I am trying not to look back. I’m looking now, living now and somehow transmitting that experience into some sort of visual language.
F: Many of your paintings have contained or isolated groups of people away from society. These paintings are reminiscent of the values of nature and the American westward expansion.
JDB: My first show at Zach Feuer in 2003 was called “Land of Many Uses,” a slogan for all California national parks…So yes, I guess I am going back to my roots or looking back…Or after years of doing this, you realize certain things really matter to you and a lot of the rest is BS.
F: One painting that stands apart from the others is the Flower to the People painting. What does the role of the painting play within the rest of the body of work?
JDB: I always think of the burst or the flower paintings as the decimator or information of the show or the Big Bang or orgasm of show which is the life and death of the show.
F: Switching gears, since this is a blog about studios, what do you look for in a space and what is a typical day in studio like?
JDB: You mean like what do I like in a space? Nice light, no clutter, white walls, a clean palette and brushes waiting to be tarnished. A typical day in studio…luckily there never is one, is one day working on the roof garden and on other days, painting fluorescent monochromatic paintings with a backdrop of my euro cousins dancing around manically in the studio…
Jules de Balincourt’s first UK solo show, Itinerant Ones is on view starting today through December 20th at Victoria Miro Gallery in 16 Wharf Road, London N1 7RW.
Jules de Balincourt, the exhibition will be on view from November 28th to March 23rd at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in 1380 Rue Sherbrooke Ouest Montréal, QC H3G 1J5.
You can see more of Jules de Balincourt’s work at www.julesdebalincourt.com