Pierre Mathieu is a self-taught artist, born in the south of France in 1964. Son and grandson of Spanish political emigrants on his mother’s side, he was not destined to be an artist by education or family background.
He graduated from a French-English business school in 1987 and later became active in the field of international aid to third world countries, travelling extensively to the poorer regions of the world and particularly to Latin America.
It was at the age of 28 that Pierre Mathieu started to paint. His work was inspired by his professional activities in developing countries and also by the urban life of modern cities. In 1996 he moved to the USA, where he began to exhibit more systematically in art galleries in several American cities, including Washington D.C, Santa Fe, Chicago and New York.
He returned to France at the end of 2001 a few weeks after September 11. It was also in 2001 that he decided once and for all to become a full-time artist. After six years in Marseille in the south of France, the artist decided to move to Africa. Since 2007 he has been living and working in Maputo, Mozambique.
The origins of his work are to be found in the post-war currents of “Experimental Painting” that drove the work of the COBRA movement at the end of the 1940s in northern Europe, and more particularly the work of Asger Jorn. Later on, artists such as Rauschenberg, de Kooning, Cy Twombly, Baselitz, Basquiat and comic-book artist Enki Bilal have influenced his more recent work.
Pierre Mathieu describes his decision to begin painting as a life-defining event: “the rejection of banality, public places and roads mapped out in advance. Painting to exist, to find my place in things, to speak out about the world and the people in it. With fury and conviction. As a witness to a society that is searching for itself, hesitates and then goes on its way, bulldozing through the world, in its sudden leaps and bounds, its outbursts and its wavering doubts, my painting feeds off the chaos, exorcises the tension, captures the intensity of the moment in order to finally achieve its balance.
In Africa it doesn’t know how to rain. The weather tosses a coin for drought or flood. Heads or tails? It’s the same with life, too. Beauty, violence, colour, light, chaos, noise, death. Everything there is more intense. Contrasts. Shifts. The die is cast and fate chooses its next move.
When people ask me how Africa has influenced my work, I never know how to reply. I think that, unconsciously, my art has always been African in its expression. Of course, the primitivism of the early years has gradually given way to a more structured, more narrative style inspired by my travels and my view of the world. But the heart of my visual expression is still, as always, a precarious balancing act between contrasts, juxtapositions and colours, executed in a rapid rhythm, filled with movement and – ultimately – very African.”