The painterly technique of Harold Ancart draws particular strength in accumulation and mass. Accenting his rough line-work with thick layers of paint and broad fields of paint, Ancart’s compositions have long drawn on the grey areas between addition and subtraction, as if his paintings and sculpture existing in a state where void states are always present, yet somehow, always just beyond comprehension. Past works have seen the artist negotiate between different perceptions of space with masterful skill, creating pieces where the accumulation of paint only draws additional strength from its later removal, or vice versa, ultimately creating complex interactions between time and space, depth and flatness.
Yet, for Ancart’s most recent body of work, which just recently opened at Clearing’s Bushwick outpost, the artist has moved into more concrete subject matter, depictions of massive icebergs, flames and crystals, each form presenting its own change for the artist to insert his brush into a new milieu. Great glacial bodies and towering fires define the show, as if the artist’s interest in force and action have translated to a vision of the world around him. Yet at the same time, the artist himself emphasizes the act of painting well beyond the subject matter itself. These are images defined by their opportunity for the interplay of color and line at its most reductive and simple. In one piece, a pair of icebergs are surrounded by a field of red paint, a subtle abstraction of a seascape that poses Ancart’s work as both naturally-oriented and simultaneously floating in a vague relation to the world around him.
Perhaps, even, one could consider the idea that Ancart has chosen subject matter that can, quite literally, be painted in broad strokes. These are figures and spaces where the sumptuous act of putting paint to canvas can be savored at length. The spaces to fill become a space for the most reductive acts of painting, and equally ones where the artist’s enjoyment of the act is allowed to come to the surface. These are, in some sense, love letters to painting itself, using the world around them as a point around which to focus.
Fusing together the diverse visual phenomena presented here, Ancart ultimately realizes a body of work that exists between the language of 20th Century abstraction and more primordial compulsions to depict the world around us. Drawn as much to the sensation and act of painting as he is to the act of visual depiction, Ancart’s pieces are a calming mediation between the languages and histories of his craft.
His work is on view through June 17th.
— D. Creahan
Harold Ancart at Clearing [Exhibition Site]