Harold Ancart has long been fascinated by the forms and textures of natural phenomena, and his works often recall the cosmic swirls of galaxies or the fecund stems of some flowering plant. Whether he is working in sculpture, installation, or spatial intervention (at Art Basel last June he transformed a piece of the Unlimited sector with a silvery, reflective floor treatment and a large-scale charcoal drawing). His process is marked by an emphasis on draftsmanship, and his finished works retain traces of earlier ideas and iterations, like faint eraser marks. Born in Brussels in 1980, and currently based in Brooklyn, Ancart has conceived his most recent exhibition, “Winning Colors” at Xavier Hufkens in Brussels, to evoke the sensation of an aquatic landscape, using little more than a few strokes and scrapes of color.
Collectively titled “Seascape,” the paintings in the show seem to exist simultaneously as abstractions and representations: each has been reduced to a vibrantly painted line that extends along the bottom of the canvas, and a bright circle, hovering in the space above. Although the works feature nothing more than basic geometric shapes and are deprived of figuration or depth, they naturally suggest ocean views: a watery horizon line reaching from right to left beneath a sprawling sky and a burning sun. This distinct delineation of space into stratified, elemental parts recalls the formulaic pictorial tradition of Chinese landscape painting, in which a compositional plane is divided into three layers—foreground, middle ground, and background—their viewpoints skewed in order to disturb expected perspectival relationships and offer the optical impression of floating.
In these works, Ancart has abandoned the vertical orientation of his previous paintings, expanding instead into the horizontal to echo the boundless reach of his subject and to visually reflect the symbolic power associated with the sea. Although the images are static—freeze-frames glimpsed from the window of a coastal train, perhaps—they assert themselves as details of a much larger picture, suggesting an irrepressible sense of movement like the ebb and flow of tides. That impression is reflected in the accompanying sculptures: long, narrow stretches of concrete that suggest old sailing vessels, edges raw and roughened by the salt of the sea.
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