In Troubled Eden, 2017, a snaking river, encroached upon by signs of human activity, is worn like a shift dress by a figure with a sharp fringe and an assertive, red-carpet stance. In other works, de Balincourt paints nocturnal landscapes, figures seeking refuge, monsters that resemble monuments, glowing caves. Everywhere, dreamlike distortions and disconcerting shifts in scale create a sense of eeriness and imbalance. There is an unsettling atmosphere to these new paintings, suggestive of a world in flux. Yet, undeniable too, is a sense of optimism, a persistence of spirit, or a suggestion of how things might be different – with a collective leap of imagination, or if power was held in other hands.
How these paintings relate to the current social and political moment, and specifically to the power dynamics of contemporary America, is left deliberately ambiguous. Always rich in colour and technique, de Balincourt’s work is a bountiful confluence of reality and fantasy, where references to society, politics, or popular culture are never less than equalled by free association and painterly invention. As with previous works, the new paintings began life as abstract shapes and colours – glowing, transparent, or sometimes acid-bright, as if to indicate hyper-awareness on the artist’s part. Shaped by intuition, imagination and memory, imagery – sometimes recurring, such as congregations of people – emerges through an intuitive dance. This is painting as open ground or test site, a point of departure for artist and viewer alike, one through which we might attempt to process the chaos of contemporary life.