Bordeaux-based artist Jean-Baptiste Besançon’s practice is predicated on investigation and process. His paintings are the result of a short series of movements or actions, which the artist considers a form of material research. Finished works are not themed or presented in series; instead, each painting is viewed as a separate experiment. “Humans are inquisitive and tend to have more questions than answers, so I think we have to research constantly,” he says. “I have to explore all the possibilities of what I am looking for, but sometimes I don’t know what I am looking for, so I have to do something. When I do something, I can begin to produce.” The sentiment echoes that of French artist Pierre Soulages, an important point of reference for Besançon’s work: “It’s what I do that teaches me what I am looking for”.
Besançon was introduced to visual art at a young age, and chose to pursue a creative career, studying design at L.I.M.A. school of applied arts in Bordeaux. Though the artist briefly followed a career in design in his twenties, he continued to paint in his spare time in the pursuit of a freer, purer form of expression. Now working solely as a painter, Besançon’s work draws influence from a lineage of expressionist and colour block painting. The artist’s previous exhibition with Francis Gallery, titled The Blue Hour, was held in Bath in 2019, and he has held solo shows across Europe, including at the Institut Culturel Bernard Magrez in Bordeaux in 2017, Nationale 8 Gallery in Dilbeek, Belgium in 2018, and Geukens & de Vil in Knokke, Belgium in 2021.
To be in contact with the canvas can be “a fight” for Besançon, evoking strong emotions and “strange sensations”. His practice is not a direct response to personal events, and he avoids offering a rigid framework in which the art should be understood, preferring to contextualise painting as its own language. “I’m not very comfortable with words,” he explains, “I am better at painting. I think with my painting.”