Jean-Baptiste Besançon The Blue Hour

Jean-Baptiste Besançon’s solo show at Francis gallery, curated by gallery director Rosa Park, is titled The Blue Hour, and exhibits the Bordeaux-based painter’s work for the first time in the United Kingdom. The title refers to the period of twilight that occurs each morning and evening, where there is neither daylight nor complete darkness. The name was selected by Park, as the use of blue hues in Besançon’s work felt evocative to her of this moment.


Besançon works in acrylic paint, applied to cotton and linen canvasses stretched on wooden frames. He does not sketch, instead allowing his instinctive gestures to guide the movement of the work. A rigorous selection process then follows these moments of free improvisation. “I think artists must always be selective, to choose whether to keep or to discard a painting. I question and try to understand why certain effects occur, why colours turn out in the shades they do, and how I can further control these elements of my paintings.”


Sometimes Besançon chooses to reverse the canvas and work on the other side of the material. “I flip the canvas and paint on the back, creating another painting on top of the image left by the seeping pigment,” he says. “I can compose in this way and repeat the process three or four times on a single canvas. When reversed, the painting becomes more graphic, more pure than the original.”


A focussed, minimal approach is evident in this collection of Besançon’s work. From a diverse and experimental practice, he has come to limit his compositions to four formats, using no more than two to three colours for each work, often contrasting one darker and one lighter shade. The palette of the series is defined by a fascination with navy blue, as well as shades of golden ochre and forest green, which, especially against the beige linen canvasses, imbue the kinetic brush strokes with a brooding, autumnal tone.