Artist: Georges Mathieu
Perrotin presents its first exhibition of Georges Mathieu’s works on paper at 2bis Avenue Matignon.
Georges Mathieu, the founder of Lyrical Abstraction, is internationally renowned for his dynamic, sometimes monumental works on canvas. In France, he is also known as a total artist, working in a wide variety of fields, from posters to medals and coins, from Gobelins tapestries to Sèvres porcelain and even avant-garde architecture. Amidst the vast array of media and techniques, his works on paper, although often exhibited alongside his paintings, have rarely been the subject of a separate exhibition. Yet they deserve special consideration, not only to showcase Mathieu's protean talent but because of their unique qualities that demonstrate the evolution of his style in parallel with his paintings.
The pieces are visually distinct from his works on canvas, primarily because of the different techniques employed. They feature a range of mixed media, including monochrome and polychrome Indian ink drawings, washes, gouaches, watercolors, and felt collages. The finesse of the pen-and-ink-drawn signs highlights the calligraphic nature of Mathieu's abstract language. They are also distinguished by their composition. Large areas of color in the background frequently enhance the dynamism of the work, producing a chromatic contrast with the lines in the foreground. Some ink drawings create an intricate, dense architectural network that would not be possible using oil paint. Others are limited to a few pen strokes, evoking Zen minimalism. Finally, in some works, the shapes are contoured, while collages of black or purple felt serve as graphic counterpoints.
Mathieu’s works on paper also differ from his applied art projects, despite utilizing similar techniques and materials. Like his paintings, their essence is purely abstract, using intuitive calligraphy, while the applied artworks often take an abstract-figurative or wholly figurative approach.
Mathieu divided his works on canvas into precise periods, each with a clearly defined name, some limited to a single year. His works on paper, by contrast, are grouped into fewer and more extended periods. They are nonetheless stylistically related to his paintings of the same era: informal outlines in the second half of the 1940s, the signs of his abstract language in the 1950s, a more angular and geometric approach in the second half of the 1960s and the 1970s, and the return of drips in the second half of the 1980s. Although Mathieu completed his last paintings on canvas in 1991, he continued to produce works on paper, often playing on the contrast between black and bright colors.
Mathieu's works on paper are a distinct artistic statement whose precision, accuracy, and subtlety of gesture – both lively and intuitive – can rival the power of his large-scale paintings. These works deserve to be explored in their own right, offering a fresh perspective on the artist's style and development, and reaffirming his place as a leader of Lyrical Abstraction in all media.
Director, Comité Georges Mathieu