fig-2 open call winner: Manuel Mathieu

Published 2 December 2015

The Goldsmiths MA student beat over 230 applicants to win fig-2’s open call. He tells us about his forthcoming fig-2 show and his search for a subject matter.

Has painting always been your main medium?

Not always. I’m studying for my Masters at Goldsmiths and one of the great things about it is that you don’t have a medium. I’ve worked with a range of media, but this year I decided to focus on painting again.

Why did you decide to focus on painting?

I was introduced to painting by a family friend. I was really struck by how you can articulate experiences through a language without words. It is a way to address deep concerns and emotions in a way that is transferable, understandable and really makes you feel. I think all artists have something to say, and the challenge is how to do it in a way that can touch other people. That is what continues to fascinate me about painting.

Do you focus on a particular subject matter?

I haven’t pinpointed that yet. I think if you want to understand what you’re painting about, you have to go out there and make 100 paintings first. Then, when you look at all of your work, certain patterns will come up and you’ll see what concerns you really had and wanted to articulate.

What is your upcoming fig-2 show about?

It is about having a strong visual experience. You will be encountering the universe and the vision of an artist. It’s a place that has no rules or a pre-defined setup; it’s a place where you have to rethink about everything. It’s a place where you really think about representation. There will be three or four paintings which have a strong anthropomorphic presence. The figures in the paintings are alone, which could signal introspection. I also see them as being in the process of decomposing.

Would you describe your work as dark?

It’s funny, because when [fig-2 curator] Fatos came to the studio, she saw some of the images that I have around and she commented that they were a bit dark. But everyone has a dark side and I just accepted it and embraced it. You could say my work has a dark streak running through it, but I think that an experience has both highs and lows, light patches and dark patches, which come together to form one thing. Breaking it up would miss the point. I want to document the whole experience and not pick and choose bits of it.

By creating a very personal universe, is there a danger that it will only speak to you or a very small audience?

I think a work should be honest. A work can be technically good or bad, but when a work is honest, you give it a certain respect. For me, all that matters is that I am being myself in the work – I offer my own vision and my own opinion. If you compromise being yourself, the honesty is lost; the work is lost. If the work doesn’t touch the viewer, it’s OK. It might touch the next viewer.

Manuel Mathieu is the winner of fig-2's open call for students. His exhibition for fig-2 will run from 7 to 13 December at the ICA Studio.

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