Interview: Manuel Mathieu

Post image for Interview: Manuel Mathieu

by D&D MTL on September 10, 2013

Raw, emotive power emanates from the paintings and drawings of Montreal-based artist Manuel Mathieu. Mathieu, a rising star on the international art scene, is nothing if not prolific: in recent years, his calendar has included exhibitions in Haiti, Montreal, the United States, and France, as well as the publication of his first monograph, Abysse/Abyss. Before setting sail for a Master’s program in studio production in England, Mathieu has curated an exhibition of his artworks created between 2011 and 2013 for Galerie Les Territoires: The Birth of Nature, on display until September 21, explores ideas about human nature and our uncertain relationship with our animal instincts. Don’t miss Mathieu’s artist’s talk on September 19 at 18:00 in the gallery.

Drink and Draw contributor Suzanne Hood caught up with Manuel to talk about The Birth of Nature, his creative process, and plans for the future.


Head, 2013. Manuel Mathieu

D&D MTL: You’ve described your painting process as quite spontaneous and intuitive. Were there ideas or inspirations that consciously motivated you to create the artworks in The Birth of Nature, or were these ideas only evident after completing these pieces?

Manuel Mathieu: The Birth of Nature incorporates pieces that are from 2011. It is only after seeing all of the work together that I became aware of the link between them. The presence of the body has always been a concern in my work so the dots practically connected themselves. When in the studio I am not necessarily thinking about the end result. Everyone has recurrent concerns in their research and practice, and with time they reveal themselves, especially when you have a certain distance from them. I believe that’s what makes the show so concise; it is this objectivity and space that has played a huge role in the paintings that I selected.



D&D MTL: Comparisons have been drawn between your paintings and those of Willem de Kooning. How do you feel about that comparison?

Untitled, 2012. Manuel Mathieu

Manuel Mathieu: The comparison was primarily about the historical context in which he was making art—then again, will we ever know what really motivated him? In terms of the work itself, the kind of work I do can be comparable to the process of any “Experimental artist.” By experimental artist, I refer you to David W. Galenson’s description in Young Genius and Old Masters: “For the Experimental artist, the planning of the painting is of little or no importance. The motif is often selected for convenience, as in many cases the artist simply returns to a subject he or she has used in the past. The experimental painter rarely makes detailed plans or sketches before beginning a particular painting. Once a painting is begun, the working stage is open-ended. The artist makes a series of decisions during this stage based on visual inspection of the developing painting, changing things when he isn’t satisfied with the appearance of the work…”   We can agree or disagree whether the work expresses some inner self, but the process stays the same.

Untitled, detail, 2011. Manuel Mathieu

D&D MTL: Is there anything special about painting and drawing for you as a means of communicating ideas, in comparison with using other artistic media?

Manuel Mathieu: Painting is one of the oldest languages of humanity and is therefore one of the most complex and mysterious. I have worked with different mediums but painting and creating images is the best way that I can lose myself. Getting in the studio and not knowing how I will come out is priceless. It connects me with time, and more importantly, my vulnerability.

D&D MTL: You’re beginning a Master’s program at Goldsmiths in London this year. Do you have certain projects or goals in mind for your time there?

Manuel Mathieu: My main focus will be to learn as much as I can. I will try not to go there with crystallized ideas; the purpose is to collaborate and evolve. The first day we are all presenting our studies, what we have done so far, so I’ll go from there.



Spooky North, 2013. Manuel Mathieu

D&D MTL: What other projects are you currently working on, and when can Montrealers next see your work?

Manuel Mathieu: I was in Haïti for 2 months during the summer working on Spooky. I am still finalizing some images from the photo shoots, some of which will be at the Museum of Civilization of Quebec in November, opening on the 5th. You are welcome to join us. If you have a project or want to collaborate, definitely reach out:





All images courtesy of Manuel Mathieu.

Suzanne Hood is a Montreal-based artist, writer, and science nerd. She loves contemporary art of all kinds, but has a special interest in drawing and painting related to biology and medical imagery. Her drawings and random thoughts about art are updated regularly on her blog Drawn In.

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