Over the past few years, Belgian-born, New York-based painter Harold Ancart has remained one of the more unique voices in modern painting. The artist’s deceptively simple, ragged style of painting and his intuitive interpretations of natural phenomena and iconographies have seen his work move through a broad range of styles and iterations, including massive depictions of flames, icebergs and lush forests, always offset by a sense of spatially-sound minimalism. Captivating in their spare, exploratory style, the artist’s works are a fascinating look at the language of modern practice, and how historical touchstones can double back on themselves to create new structures and vocabularies.
The buzz around Ancart’s work has not gone unnoticed either, and this month marks his first exhibition in David Zwirner’s storied halls. Taking over the gallerist’s Davies Street space in London, Ancart takes his step onto a larger stage with a return to his iceberg paintings, massive constructions depicting the nuanced shapes and lines of these icy monoliths. Ancart began painting icebergs in January 2018, response to a brutal New York winter, and his awe in the frozen landscapes make for a playful mix with the scope of a painter located in such a massive metropolis. It’s a fitting combination, paralleling the cold’s ability to immobilize the viewer with the work’s own arresting characteristics.
The subject matter of the iceberg is consistent throughout the show, a visual motif that serves as a jumping off point for Ancart’s meditative application of paint. These are pieces invested in the act of creation, and express a distinct pleasure in the application of paint. Skylines and sheer faces provide space for Ancart’s light movements and thick slabs of paint to create natural conversation points, and equally serve as a comment on the canvas itself. His works mark a dissection of sorts, breaking the painting from a figurative whole into abstract parts; subject dissolving into form, color, and gesture; these works are a meditation on painting.
It’s almost as if Ancart’s awareness of the canvas and its potentials, combined with his fascination with his immense subjects, allow a space for the wonder of nature to find proper expression. The scale of these images and their equally impressive subject matter coalesce in a strategy of both looking and creating, for viewer and for artist, that allows the power of nature to emerge. For Ancart, this space, where language seems to break down in the face of nearly intangible forms, allows nature, in all of its wonder and grandeur, to emerge in full.
The show is on through September 22nd.
— D. Creahan
Harold Ancart: Freeze [David Zwirner]