Jules de Balincourt’s Itinerant Ones at Victoria Miro

Jules de Balincourt’s Itinerant Ones at Victoria Miro represents a shift in de Balincourt’s work, away from direct reference to contemporary social and political issues.

Instead, the exhibition presents us with a world partially removed from our own, close enough to provoke comparison but detached enough to leave us in no doubt of its visionary nature.

 

Human congregation and a synergy with the landscape typify the scenes depicted. The masterful ‘High and Low’ depicts figures congregating on rooftops and in parks, while in ‘BBQ sur l’herbe’ figures actually merge into one another, a physical expression of the pervading sense of human interconnectedness that unites the works on show.

The surfaces of a number of the canvases are lightly scratched which results in a flickering effect, causing the paintings to resemble projections, intensifying the sense that these alternate realities are just out of reach, a gulf exists between us. In these spaces we find what is, for me, most fascinating and beguiling about this exhibition: both between the world(s) Itinerant Ones presents us with and ours, and also the concrete political realities of de Balincourt’s earlier work and this rather more indeterminate landscape. A tension is often perceived between political perspectives founded on the notion of discrete and unchanging identities and those which seek to dissolve such distinctions in favour of a more fluid model of subjectivity.

Itinerant Ones includes images aligned with both perspectives; ‘Exodus’, for instance, shows figures partially abstracted in order to emphasise the unity of the collective, suggesting that those depicted have moved beyond the superficial boundaries that govern commonplace conceptions of subjectivity. By contrast, ‘Mini Exodus’ presents something closer to a real-world scenario, which prompts us to view the work in the context of the harsh reality of migrancy. The coexistence of both here is testament to the complexity of de Bailncourt’s vision, which inhabits the latter without negating the former. Rather, the worlds presented here inspire us to re-think the political through the lens of a pluralistic philosophy which has space for individualism but is not limited to it. In doing so perhaps we’ll inch closer to the flickering utopias he presents us with.

Jules de Balincourt’s Itinerant Ones is showing at Victoria Miro Gallery until 20 Dec

words Laura Purseglove

 

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