Louise Belcourt: New Paintings

New York

Louise Belcourt: HedgeLand Painting # 9 (2009): Oil on canvas. Courtesy the artist and Jeff Bailey Gallery, New York.Louise Belcourt: HedgeLand Painting # 9 (2009): Oil on canvas. Courtesy the artist and Jeff Bailey Gallery, New York.

By Bill Clarke

Louise Belcourt: New Paintings
Jeff Bailey Gallery
February 17 - March 27, 2010

Montreal-born, Brooklyn-based Louise Belcourt’s latest works are a big step forward in her development as a painter. Belcourt’s earlier gouaches on paper are crisp, colourful and clean but, with the move onto canvas and the use of oil paints, she is able to construct greater depths of field and enhance the paintings’ wonderful sense of visual push and pull. Resisting the charm of Belcourt’s work is near to impossible.

As indicated by the title of the series, HedgeLand Paintings (2009), Belcourt didn’t stray too far a-field from the subject matter in her gouaches. Nor has she altered her colour palette of various shades of blue and green, creamy white, and the occasional surprising shots of fire engine red or bright orange. Belcourt paints abstract landscapes but, where her earlier gouaches seem to suggest manicured front lawns or public parks, the new paintings also include more expansive forms that appear to be mountain ranges, lakes and islands. Louise Belcourt: Installation view: Courtesy the artist and Jeff  Bailey Gallery, New York.Louise Belcourt: Installation view: Courtesy the artist and Jeff Bailey Gallery, New York.The HedgeLand Paintings conflate the landscapes of two vastly different locations: the Canadian landscape surrounding the small village of Metis-sur-Mer in Quebec, to where the artist retreats each spring and summer, and the cityscape she surveys from her Brooklyn studio’s windows when she returns to the city in the fall. Knowing this prompts viewers to read the stacked, blocky shapes in Belcourt’s paintings as organic and artificial, simultaneously. An arrangement of cubes in a Belcourt painting could be either a row of shrubs or a row of low-rise apartment buildings.

While each of the 12 paintings in the series have something to recommend in them, the HedgeLand Paintings #5 and #9 were the standouts, being the least cluttered. This lent a particular buoyancy to the shapes in these two works. They are also the most successful examples of the artist’s experiments with depth of field mentioned earlier, featuring two vertical rectangular blocks that, in #5, fan out from the centre of the canvas and, in #9, extend into the centre from either side. Both also seem to have a touch of the surreal; a tiny de Chirico figure wouldn’t seem too out of place wandering through one of Belcourt’s richly evocative landscapes.