In the studio
Jules de Balincourt
PARIS, FRANCE

Balincourt is a painter who embraces the subconscious. His sumptuous visual language and understated conceptual charm runs through vivid landscapes, ambiguous crowds and an ever-present yet foreboding optimism.

Photos by James Chororos

“I’m always working intuitively and unconsciously.”

Channeling intuition, Balincourt’s work is characterised by the interplay between abstract forms and figuration. Without using reference materials, Balincourt begins his canvases by sketching shapes and colour that move from his mind to his hand. Once the base of the painting has freely evolved, he adds clusters of figures that transform the abstraction into representation; pale pink ovals become mountains, yellow-orange streaks become trees. A rich, visceral study of color and form that presents stories and scenarios of child-like curiosity, Balincourt’s work is purposefully accessible: a conscious resistance to the over-intellectualised pretentiousness of the contemporary art world.


They Cast Long Shadows saw a rich, lucid collection of paintings invigorate the stark white walls of Mayfair’s Victoria Miro in 2018. Displayed with deliberate awkwardness – some pieces high above the eye-line, some arranged in purposeful, uneven scatterings – the works have a boldness and vibrancy reminiscent of faux-niaf paintings and outsider art. Cave Country, a large canvas depicting a group of people huddled in a cave, presents a scene at the cusp of comfort and disaster. With a loose upward brushstroke throughout the painting, moving through oranges, pinks, purples and blues, the cave glows with a warmth of solidarity, the people within it connected by a shared sense of sanctuary. However, intrinsic to this refuge is also the lurking fear of whatever has been fled from: an eerie mystery that questions what is at stake beyond the image, what fear has compelled these people to hide?


“I can’t just have anything-goes abstraction. I need a story, I need tension, I need a narrative.”

This subtle disquiet and uneasy undertone throughout the show is, Balincourt explains, a permeation of a “dark subconscious” that Trump brought to America. Recurring motifs, such as statues and islands, represent disconnected groups and ideologies throughout the exhibition as well as explicit depictions of Trump in Repeated Histories, and the controversial Republican politician, Roy Moore in …And The Horse You Rode In On. While Balincourt is not an explicitly political artist, it is telling that the political subconscious has infiltrated his personal process of image-making. Becoming a subtle act of public participation, Balincourt’s work elucidates an extraordinary moment in American history: one where non-participation has ceased to be a neutral position. Providing artistic escape through the lived national experience, Balincourt’s paintings perform quiet defiance and represent a small offering of hope and optimism within the challenging broader context of their production.


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