Perrotin Paris is pleased to present the first solo exhibition by Mathilde Denize. Following the artist’s presentation at the Centre d’art contemporain d’Alfortville La Traverse in May 2022 and her solo exhibition at Perrotin New York in September 2021, Never Ending Story gathers a series of new paintings and installations.
A woman’s umbrella lay flat on the sidewalk and a step or two beyond a glove had been forgotten on a bench. The Paris night grew big with shadows and these lost objects seemed to become a part of it.
Mathilde Denize took possession of painting when she decided that certain of her canvases would enjoy a more interesting perspective if she separated them from their stretchers. As soon as they were freed from the wooden frame that acted as both support and tension, her paintings fluttered like laundry from a window, overhanging the void. By her own admission, these forms and figures that were unfinished—or precisely too finished because they were too captive—turned into yards of painting divested of the chassis to which they had been confined.
At the same time, she enjoyed collecting, gathering scrap and objects from the street that others had scorned and abandoned. Battered, smashed, shattered, and incomplete, their exile rendered them sensitive and touching. Banished from everyday domestic existence, in her studio they regained a semblance of life. A salvaged hat block, curled-up leaves, neglected bits of paper: protective of their tattered memories, Mathilde Denize assembled them with a tie, an elastic band, or a makeshift piece of string, bandaging them with kindness.
The artist alternated between this recreational collecting and cutting up her paintings—not to destroy them, but to observe the residual shapes that could emerge. Soon, these pieces and fragments became an obvious match for the trifling objects. The aggregation of painted forms pieced together and scantily assembled into clothing sensations, like garments forgotten on a coat rack, underscored the sense of absence that united the abandoned objects. In this approximation, Mathilde Denize found herself wholly. The hanging of her work would no longer only entail the customary, expected, white partitions. The body would be the plinth. Her practice would be multiple.
Painting, sculpture, performance, and installation would not suffice to define the personal artistic geography she had adopted, where the course is charted by the makeshift means employed. Dressmaker’s toile or painter’s canvas? The question seems posed by two works from 2020, Relief for Her and Body Keep. Both paintings are oil on cotton canvas. The typology of a barely modeled jacket is clearly recognizable in both, yet this does not make it an instrument in a wardrobe.
“My work reflects a certain femininity and offers a complex vision of the female body: armor, grotesque figure, fragmented figures, effigy. Her different sides and possibilities are all visible in these forms.”
Mathilde Denize’s painted works stand a thread’s breath away from the limp inhabitants of dressing rooms and closets, without ever quite adopting their territory. When it comes to fragile assembly and poor materials, Mathilde Denize’s wearable art is more a legacy of the artistic practices of Kurt Schwitters or Robert Filliou.
“The beauty of the work lies in the freedom of the spectator to use their imagination, to perceive the body through their own experience, infinitely malleable."
Mathilde Denize was a set painter for a while, mainly for films. This is not irrelevant. Her patched-together suits—hand-woven pictorial fantasies— are also expressions of her admiration for the Armenian director Sergei Parajanov, and his film The Color of Pomegranates in particular. Suspended on the wall as if on a hook or a hanger, jumbled on a body that they don’t quite dress, Mathilde Denize’s painted clothes scream isolation and absence.
The sensitive, poetic, unstable archaeology that Mathilde Denize collects, accumulates, cuts, and assembles, like a wallpaper being constantly recomposed, is now her creative playground.
Born in Sarcelles, France
Lives and works in 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.