A visitor studies a piece by Jules de Balincourt.
Reporting back

Reporting back

Taking the temperature of the art scene, here and now


Monday, 26 April 2021, 09:17

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Fast-rewinding the reviews I wrote last summer, I wonder if I was not over optimistic. The first of my post-lockdown 'art-icles' was entitled "Art unlocked - Broken habits, fresh sensations..." What fresh sensations? You may well ask.

There's a limit to the charm of crowd-less museums. Sometimes I feel as if I've landed on a strange planet: a "Lonely Planet" peopled by a rare and endangered species of art-world survivors. "New Mutants".

Has the general public become immune to bathing in a relatively eventless cultural climate? Having to juggle on-again off-again pandemic restrictions appears to have taken the zing out of getting out and about.

The shift in values is glaring. Something is broken inside of us, and we're not even sure that we want to fix it. "It's as if we didn't mind not going out," mused one friend recently, echoing the mood of another, who has "gone off" shopping: "I don't care about things anymore; I only care about people."

After The Gold Rush

I was lost in my thoughts - taking the temperature of the local art scene; looking up terms like "anhedonia" (the opposite of hedonism, the inability to feel pleasure) - when an introduction to the universe of a mainstream French artist featured at the CAC, Malaga's contemporary centre (till 30 May), put me back on track: "Oscillating between utopia and dystopia, Jules de Balincourt's paintings explore indoor and outdoor spaces that suggest ever-changing landscapes - both physical and psychological."

Born in Paris in 1972, raised in California, based chiefly in New York and Costa Rica, de Balincourt is a surfer and it shows. His visual shorthand hovers on the cusp of figuration with a techie-primitive 'New-Agey' edge and semi-abstract archetypes intimating the emergence of a yet-to-be-invented tribe of post-cool post-apocalyptic trailblazers.

"A sense of things breaking apart and reconnecting" infuses his bold-hued imaginary gathering spots. The dichotomy between urban constraints and back-to-nature escapism is recurrent, uncannily relevant to our present predicament. Go see - and enjoy - this riveting show dubbed After The Gold Rush.

Mare Nostrum

Can art help us to weather the pandemic? Hopefully. How are artists faring? Fine on the work front; confinement "comes with the job". Less well, sales-wise. A prominent Malaga-based artist confirms the diagnosis; "less mobility means less attendance, fewer potential buyers."

Rereading a review pitched as the "Staircase effect" and subtitled "See you later, Charo Carrera... at the Pompidou Centre, Malaga" (my first under lockdown) is doubly moving, not only as it spotlights a project that suddenly found itself under lock and key just a few days after the aforementioned Charo had unveiled it, but also because - as I write - this ephemeral artistic commission (scheduled to greet visitors for no more than a year) is being obliterated from the museum's walls.

In retrospect, many consider the concept underlying Carrera's painstakingly painted mural, which had graced the Pompidou's main staircase since February 2020, to have been "positively premonitory". Combining a blood-red frieze and gothic lettering, it extended "an invitation to change" to the onlooker, whilst surfing on the Spanish language's conditional use of the imperfect subjunctive: "Si yo, si tú..." ("What if I, if you...") could change our ways - our attitude to the planet / animals / fellow human beings (...)?

Pursuing her philosophical reflections "at the crossroads of utopia and dystopia" - not unlike Jules de Balincourt, though in a different vein - Charo Carrera has mounted a mixed media show called La Fría Intemperie (The Cold Spell) at Mare Nostrum, a former station converted into a seafront gallery, situated in La Cala del Moral, east of Malaga city. To be seen until 7th May, it envelops the visitor in a wave-like swell of poetic propositions. The ideal antidote to the frosty anonymity of contemporary society, to the "rampant banality and injustices", which she denounces with such fervour: "It all started long before the pandemic. We have to question and combat it, notably through creative action."

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