Maurice Matieu: Shadows

By Ellen Hall

The Museum of Collioure stands among terraces of pines and olive trees rising to the restored mill, its arms wide open to the wind. In the current exhibition of Maurice Mathieu’s pencil and oil works, trees seem to have migrated to the top floor.

Here is an homage to the green world, but with trunks and leaves pencilled in red, orange and purple. A closer look reveals a disturbing element. Eccentric, phantom-like shapes merge with the branches and incongruous pairs of feet mingle by the roots. You wonder why.

Move on to Matieu’s oil paintings which seem to depict bodies arrayed on a mosaic of brightly coloured beach towels. The resulting kaleidoscope of colour and form is a series he calls “Shadows”.

In his work Matieu reflects on the question of personal identity. Because he thinks, “The face is often an obstacle”, he asked his friends and colleagues to take photographs of the shadows of their bodies, hands and feet. He then transferred these forms onto his canvases and set them in a sea of criss-crossing networks of design motifs.

In another experiment he asked people to photograph their own hands free of any personal objects. When he displayed the collection, no one could pick out their own hands! Makes one wonder. Are we only shadows of our own flesh?

Go and see these hauntingly beautiful images for yourself. “Ombres” by Maurice Mathieu is at the Musée d’art modern at Collioure until 30 January 2011.

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