Manuel Mathieu at The Power Plant

The Power Plant presents World Discovered Under Other Skies, Manuel Mathieu’s first institutional exhibition in Toronto. This exhibition, largely comprised of the artist’s complex, larger-than-life paintings, features media less commonly exhibited by Mathieu, including drawings, ceramics and textiles created over the course of his career. “Underlining common links and struggles that unite us despite national borders, [Mathieu] invites us to enter a world discovered under other skies.”

Manuel Mathieu: World Discovered Under Other Skies. Installation view: The Power Plant, Toronto, 2020-21.

Born in Port-au-Prince and based in Montreal, Manuel Mathieu studied at Universitè du Québec à Montréal and Goldsmiths, University of London. He has participated in various group and solo exhibitions all over the world, including the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, HDM Gallery, Beijing, Grand Palais, Paris, and Art Basel among others. Most of Mathieu’s work draw inspiration from his homeland, Haiti, depicting political, personal, and historical subjects. His style lies between abstraction and figuration, combining bold shapes and lines with muted, earthy tones. His works are powerful and expressive, emotional and narrative.

Manuel Mathieu: World Discovered Under Other Skies. Installation view: The Power Plant, Toronto, 2020-21.

Mathieu’s works reflect universal ideas of yearning for liberation and resistance to imperialism and capitalism, concepts epitomized by Haiti’s past and present. The exhibition reveals Haiti’s relationship to the world, its rich, complex history, and its current state. Within his works, Mathieu explores themes such as the lasting effects of Haiti’s revolt in 1791, American and European neo-colonial presence within the country, and the Duvalier dictatorships (1957-86). Mathieu connects history with present day, politics with personal life, peace and violence, evoking a sense of unity and interconnectedness that defies national borders and the passing of time.

Manuel Mathieu: World Discovered Under Other Skies. Installation view: The Power Plant, Toronto, 2020-21.

This exhibition features several of Mathieu’s drawings. These dynamic, hazy works are non-narrative and rather experimentational, as explained by The Power Plant. With these sketches, Mathieu explores various motifs, techniques, and materials. In Somatic (2020), he attempts to convey the motion of a body on paper, using his hands to smear pigment over paper to evoke dancing and the sound of drums, that are, as he explains “integral to Haitian culture”.

Manuel Mathieu: World Discovered Under Other Skies. Installation view: The Power Plant, Toronto, 2020-21.

In Resilience – a Landscape of Desire, Mathieu departs from his usual medium of painting and uses the canvas as a found object. This piece conveys the idea of resilience: “taking inventory of what remains of oneself, a place after surviving adversity”. This work, fragile and hardy, brings to mind both strength and suffering, its material ripped, stained, and barely connected, but still holding together.

Manuel Mathieu, Resilience – a Landscape of Desire, 2020-21.

World Discovered Under Other Skies also features the artist’s ceramic works, publicly exhibited the first time. These works are largely influenced by Haitian ceramic artists such as Georges Liautaud and Murat Berriere, in their two-dimensionality and stylized designs. The majority of Mathieu’s ceramics are monochromatic, allowing for emphasis on their bold, abstracted shapes. Their forms are ambiguous, and each work exists both as an individual piece and as part of a collection. They vary from animal and human forms, natural motifs, and geographical shapes. While first appearing quite simple, these works are complex and surreal, defying any easy interpretation.

Manuel Mathieu: World Discovered Under Other Skies. Installation view: The Power Plant, Toronto, 2020-21.

This exhibitionis an extensive overview of some of Mathieu’s most fascinating works. Combining global and personal experience, simple and complex designs, and figurative and abstracted subjects, Mathieu’s multimedia solo exhibition invites viewers to enter a “world discovered under other skies”.

Bronwen Cox

Images are courtesy of The Power Plant. Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid

*Exhibition information: Manuel Mathieu: World Discovered Under Other Skies, September 26, 2020 – Summer 2021, The Power Plant, 231 Queens Quay West, Toronto.

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