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Turning Dust into Mountains: The Eternal Return of Manuel Mathieu

By Theresa Passerello

“In the slave ship when our destiny was shattered by disruptors and we were deprived of everything we owned and turned into objects, holding onto a rock during the crossing and turning that rock, just like the Igbo did before us, through our prayers into a symbol of our hopes and desires was pivotal to preserve what was most precious in us, our humanity. This exercise mimics our capacities as a Black people against all odds to transcend our experiences and turn dust into mountains.” Manuel Mathieu

An absolute delight and wise beyond his years, Manuel Mathieu, a rising star in the contemporary art world joins us from his three-month residency in Sonoma, California and talks to us about desire, letting go, being generous, shortcuts and showing up. Click play below for the very personal and revealing interview:

Manuel Mathieu transforms the ordinary into the extraordinary. His visceral metaphysical paintings and sculptures question the legacy of abstraction, sliding back and forth between certainty and mystery and creating elastic spaces that call on the agency of the viewer for their regeneration, transcending our cognitive understanding of reality.

The Eternal Return is an ancient philosophical concept attached to the Ouroboros, the title of Mathieu’s installation in his recent exhibition “Survivance” at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. It is a symbol of continuous hope, renewal and introspection. Mathieu attempts to keep a practice that is ahead of what he understands, staying in constant conversation with a concept and searching for the answers in his work. He does not wish to repeat what he already knows and circles toward that one thing that is so powerful that he can talk about it for the rest of his life.

“The more you show up, the more you’ll have opportunities to let go and the more you’ll have opportunities to discover something.”

Manuel Mathieu was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti in 1986 and moved to Quebec at the age of 19 to live with his grandmother. His pursuit of art was largely influenced by his cousin, groundbreaking Haitian artist Mario Benjamin. He received his BFA from Université de Quebec à Montreal in 2011 and his MFA at Goldsmiths, University of London, England in 2016. Manuel is a sought-after Montreal-based artist with international representation by art galleries in Toronto, Montreal, Chicago, Brussels, Beijing, and London, England. His most recent exhibitions include World Discovered Under Other Skies at the Powerplant Contemporary in Toronto, Survivance at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and Wu Ji at the HDM Gallery in Beijing. His current exhibition Negroland: A Landscape of Desires is on view at Kavi Gupta Gallery in Chicago until July 3rd, 2021 followed by Built Within You at Matthew Brown Gallery in LA this summer. Manuel was also the recipient of Canada’s preeminent recognition for Canadian artists, the Sobey Award in 2020.

Theresa Passarello is a Montreal-based artist who was born in Freeport, Bahamas in 1969. Theresa is a graduate from Concordia University’s Studio Arts Program and also has a degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Waterloo. She is President of the Board of Directors at The Visual Arts Centre and is the Chair of the Gallery Selection Committee for the McClure Gallery. Theresa currently has her work in the One In A Year group exhibition at The Painting Centre in NYC until May 20th, 2021.

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