By gleaning left out objects here and there, David Ancelin undertakes an analysis of the sculptural potential of their different volumes. Shapes are selected for their immediate and direct identification and their underlying common meaning. These are then examined and manipulated. Aspects such as the technical, aesthetic, or poetic qualities within the shape allow the creation and undoing of knots of meaning. It is there that lyrical mechanisms take shape between the materials and what they suggest. Common place referents (maritime, urban, industrial) are attached to these plastic manipulations and are a pretext to stage them. The works showcase their delicate and unstable positions autonomously. Their fragility is manifest in the seemingly dangerous and rickety base where they stand between the walls of the space exhibition. Sculptures, screen printings, and paintings answer by associations of ideas, aesthetic correspondences, creating bridges between flatness and volume, uniqueness and multiplicity. The narrative fragments intercross and weave the imaginary threads of an imperceptible abstract canvas. There lies the indecisive relationship between formal interpretation and its literal translation.


 Juxtapoz n°113, June 2010, San Francisco





“Smog By Night: David Ancelin Solo Exhibition” showcases two series, “Smog” and “By Night.” Comprising stainless steel prints, silkscreen prints, and small acrylic paintings, the works represent and distort Chinese landscapes. BLOUIN ARTINFO China spoke to David Ancelin about his work in China.


Why did you choose to create works in Beijing?

Creating the pieces in Beijing is a way of living in a unique context. Each work is composed of many stories, and the details of these stories are explained through the painting. I don’t speak a word of Chinese, so the exhibition “Smog By Night” stems from this lack of understanding.


What is the relationship between your paintings and China?

“By Night” began with pictures taken when I was traveling in Montreal and New York, but a lot of these paintings come from pictures that I took four years ago on my first trip to China. There are a lot of night landscapes, particularly in the streets of Beijing and the suburbs, which reflect the particular aesthetic of deserted streets, dim lights, and true darkness. I find this contrast striking.

Likewise, I’m particularly interested in working with silkscreen printing here because there’s a long history of this medium in China. However, it’s a young medium in Western culture, especially in art. I’m trying to find visual connections between these two distant worlds, in order to create an unlikely point of view, a sensation of floating.


Why do you use photographs in your paintings and prints?

I use a camera as a tool for analysis. After that, I decide if it makes more sense to paint or print it on a flat surface, or whether it should be made more concrete in installation or sculpture. The photos are just a starting point for my work, a way to bring details from the outside into my studio. I’m not what most people would call a “good photographer;” most of my photos are blurry or poorly-framed. My paintings are an exercise that helps me try to better remember a scene. I try to nail them down these glimmers of memory between the darkness and the shadows.


Why is night such an important theme in your work?

Naturally, paint pigments reflect different colors on the light spectrum. The night could be considered a simple way to think about light, but you can achieve cool or warm blacks, with a little bit of blue, red, green, or yellow. For example, there are a lot of color differences between neon light and lamp light. I’m interested in the subtleties and atmospheric effects that emerge in my paintings when you add a little bit more of one color or another.


Why have you focused on “smog?” Isn’t smog somewhat ominous?

I don’t really find it ominous, unless it is a strange atmosphere. The word “smog” itself is really important for me, because it is the collage of two different words, “smoke” and “fog,” a neologism stemming from two abstract things. My work usually centers on the bonding of two elements in order to bring out different meanings. The viewer can decide if it’s ominous or not; that’s not my place to say.

The pictures used in this series are usually taken in conventional and ideal tourist spots, which then disappear into the smog. I prefer to leave it to the viewer to create his own story. My goal is to create a picture between the abstract and the figurative.


Q&A: David Ancelin on Printing Beijing's Smog and Nights

by Li Li, Bridget Noetzel

Blouin Artinfo - Published : August 19, 2013




Smog by Night, David Ancelin’s first solo exhibition in China, is a hodgepodge. Here, silk-print figures on industrial panes of stainless steel. There, ceramic tiles glued to dynamic sculptures. Such is the condition of modernity, the works detachedly declare. And the condition of the subject who inhabits this fragmented modernity is that of the bricoleur: one who finds meaning from the mess, by assembling what he can from what is at hand.

The product of a two-month artist’s residency in Beijing, this mishmash of mismatched objects can be divided into three sections. In ‘Smog’, solitary, silk-printed figures interrupt the enveloping emptiness of the muted metal panels. Separated from their context, the floating figures reveal how we often disassemble and distill the complexity of the world down to a single element, in order to make sense of a landscape. ‘By Night’ is composed of a series of postcard-sized domestic street scenes, the miniature scale of the works confronting us with the finitude of the frame as an absolute limit. The limits of our subjectivity – we can only ever be in one place at one time – constitute a limit on the ways we can make sense of the world. And ‘Deep Blue’, a playful wink to the IBM computer that defeated chess grandmaster Kasparov at his own game, organises hundreds of blue and white tiles into three-dimensional sculptures that resemble a water drop at its moment of impact with another surface. The construction mimics the way we conscript a ransom of disparate elements, to form what is, to us, a coherent whole.

Together, the three sections articulate the condition ‘Smog by Night’: the condition in which our ability to make sense of the world seems permanently impeded by a kind of murkiness. Each of the sections describe the logic and a process by which we produce meaning out of this murk. What Ancelin’s work suggests is that we are all bricoleurs, picking out, and then reassembling from what is at hand, that which will allow us to impose order on the disordered cacophony of the world. ‘But wait a minute,’ the attentive reader protests, ‘if the exhibition is titled Smog by Night, why is there a section called “Deep Blue”? And while we’re on the topic, if there’s already “smog”, isn’t the “by night” quite redundant?’ Anyone who has spent any period of time in Beijing will tell you the impenetrable layer of soot and smoke is more than sufficient to completely obscure vision.


It is here that Ancelin’s exhibition makes its most daring philosophical argument: the redundancy is its very point. All of the works, in fact, have an element of redundancy inherent in their very construction. The silk-prints of ‘Smog’ have been produced using industrial machinery, but the machinery has been used in such a way that the prints have been made by hand. The miniature domestic scenes of ‘By Night’ are hand-painted reproductions of photographs. And the ceramic tiles to make up the sculptures of water drops suspended in time in ‘Deep Blue’ mimic the pixellation of computer rendering. What Ancelin’s work suggests is that the bricoleur’s graft, in selectively reassembling elements of the world to create meaning, is, in fact, redundant – or to put it another way, the order we impose on the world is in excess to the fundamental disorder of the world, which persists irrespective of our bricolage . Smog, of course, is also the excess that is produced by the process of industrial production. Smog by Night is, for all its mess, a quite remarkable exhibition. Or, if you will permit us this excess of a sentence: out of the clutter of his creations, what Ancelin produces here is pretty neat.


Review : Smog by Night, David Ancelin's work seeks out meaning from the mess

by Simon Zhou

Time Out Beijing - Published : September 25, 2013




What’s interesting in the work of David Ancelin is that it expands from prints to sculptures, freely navigating on subjects linked to our society, history, leisure and consumerism, it is also surfing with a sense of design, humor and equilibrium that has to offer a variety of unique and intriguing pieces.

Along with a current presence at “Drawing Now” in Paris, where David Ancelin exhibits limited editions of prints on silk scarfs with Backslash Gallery, it’s an opportunity to sneak a peak at a larger selection of his work at La Confidentielle, a parallel fair in Le Marais.

Once used to guide cows for plowing, here the caps have replaced the animals heads under the yoke, you can also see among other pieces a swimming pool mosaic silk scarf tied on a chic boat handrail… An antique amphora with diving-palm evoking the abysses of wine and the deep sea, a fiberglass bathtub chair printed with Vogue cigarette tracks… With various layers of understandings, the works are often titillating a sense of apprehension, adaptation or triggering memories, it is walking on a thread with a balance from the poetic to the absurd and the pieces are always very well completed.

Review : A Quick Dive Into The World Of David Ancelin

Paris March 2018, Géraldine Postel