Sat 7 Jan 2023 to Sat 11 Mar 2023
76 rue de Turenne, 75003 Mathilde Denize: Never Ending Story
Artist: Mathilde Denize
version française ici Perrotin Paris presents 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 end of 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.
Philippe Soupaul, Last Nights of Paris, 1928, trans. William Carlos Williams (New York: Full Court Press, 1982).
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.
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. Roughly cut, sketchily sewn, the sleeves of a harlequin jacket (Coat Trail for a Shell, 2021, pp. 22–23), the legs of barely outlined pants (Contours, 2018), the relief created in a suspended swimsuit (Contours, 2021, p. 63), form a unique visual vestiaire more than they mimic any wardrobe. While some creations borrow their titles from the language of clothes (Oversize, 2019, pp. 16–17), the lure of fashion ends there. Mathilde Denize’s costumes are but illusion and appearance. They are not civilian, everyday, urban, or theatrical costumes. They are, at most, apparel for an exceptional ceremony for which only the artist knows the date of the performance. To see for yourself, look at the Haute Peinture performance from 2019 (p. 15). On bodies reduced to black silhouettes, painted fragments of aborted clothes compose and recompose unrestrained figures, frameless paintings in motion. The faces rendered absent by felt cloche hats dictate an anonymity that highlights a work painted as a freestyle choreography. There is little filiation with the realm of fashion. 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. Oskar Schlemmer comes to mind and his triadic ballets where costumes, artworks in motion, reigned supreme. As does Giacomo Balla and his attempts at colorful utopian clothing.
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. An atmosphere of solitude prevails over these objects, of which Mathilde Denize, in her turn, is the custodian. 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. With overloaded motifs, colored lines that turn them into purposefully present camouflages, and the sense of expectation in which they are precariously held, walled in silence, could these unsettling clothes—paintings to try on for size—not be the remnants and embellishments of a relentlessly salvaged past that is on the verge of disappearing?
The sensitive, poetic, unstable archaeology that Mathilde Denize collects, accumulates, cuts, and assembles, like a wallpaper being constantly recomposed, is now her creative playground. It is where she governs the complicity of connections between these disaffected forms.
Artistic, Image and Culture Director of J.M. Weston, Director of the Azzedine Alaïa Foundation