Perrotin Shanghai is pleased to present These are the Days, the first solo show by French artist Mathilde Denize in China. The exhibition showcases a new cohesive body of work created in 2023, including canvas works, recent drawings, and costume-paintings.
Scraped to the bone and extra lean, Mathilde Denize’s pastel paintings are strangely reminiscent of carcasses with bare flanks. On frameless canvases, flesh-colored shreds rise to the surface, silhouettes in diluted hues and other torn shapes that, from a distance, give the illusion of anthropomorphic forms. In contrast to the current appetite for figurative painting, eagerly served up by a new generation uninhibited after many meager years, Mathilde Denize adheres to an allusive abstraction in which bodies dissolve in milky transparency, revealing different layers and softening the whole, removing any carnivorous temptation.
In Denize’s work, appetite comes with eating. Of course, it does. But it feeds on little, on a well-honed, nourishing cuisine that never quite satisfies her so that she returns to it time and again. This obsession is played out in a studio near the Porte de Clignancourt flea market, which the artist–a compulsive collector and former film set designer–no longer frequents because it has become too institutionalized. She now collects everyday objects found on the streets and in the south of Paris, arranging them into charming little sets that fill her studio like miniature cabinets of curiosity. Unfortunately, these compositions are rarely exhibited. They offer interesting counterpoints to the paintings, which, though they don’t feature bodies as such, act as shelters or cloaks for these absent bodies.
More soberly, the non-binary rapper and poet Kae Tempest declares “These Are the Days,” which Denize borrows for her exhibition title. As the days go by, they fade away. The artist is gripped by the idea of returning to them, in the engine room with her head in the clouds, cultivating a certain lightness, reworking, producing, sequencing, undoing, repeating, recycling, erasing, tweaking, and re-stacking.
Mathilde Denize has often recounted the story of her “original sin”: studying at the Beaux-Arts de Paris in the early 2010s, she was determined to create a more realistic art, which none of her teachers encouraged. She was weighed down by the hundreds of canvasses she had accumulated over the years until she had an epiphany: she realized that she needed to tear them apart, without any regard for the time she had invested in them, in a joyous orgy, a sort of auto-da-fé of her own work, cutting out little pieces that she reassembled, sewed together and literally reanimated in the costume-paintings that made her famous.
Since then, Mathilde Denize has been reconciled with painting, which she no longer does “with the tip of her brush.” She has turned it into the theater of her own concord: tender swirls of paint from discarded paint cans found on film sets, whose colors she doesn’t choose, small pots of iridescent paint from an Istanbul market, and a certain taste for mise-en-scène, but also for the mystical, DIY cinema of Soviet director Sergei Paradjanov or the deceptively naive floral paintings of American painter Georgia O'Keeffe.
I never ask myself what the subject is, I create contrasts vertically, waiting for the surprise.
Née en 1986 à Sarcelles, France
Habite et travaille à Paris, France
Mathilde Denize's practice is oriented towards painting, installation work, sculptural composition, performance, and video. Denize’s work is born from a desire to make meaning emerge from a fragmented present. A collector of discarded objects, she often cuts up her older paintings and then weaves them into new forms with found materials. Thus, new artworks are born from remnants of the past, a metaphor for the complicated existence of human beings. Inspired by great experimental artists, like Carolee Scheemann, she utilizes the body as much as the painting. Her garments, which often resemble a sexualized female form, act as both armor and camouflage. Her paintings are an open diary, punctuating and dialoguing with her sculptures. With subtle gestures, Denize constitutes a set of forgotten and anonymous forms, witnesses of a contemporary archeology.