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She's an artist whose portfolio portrays a myriad of mediums. Mathilde Denize attributes it to her numerous influences and experiences in the visual arts. By experimenting with upcycling past works, her collection of garments — or armours — for feminine bodies is an ode to different approaches to beauty, self-presentation and gendered images. Her new suite of wearable paintings, along with other works born out of her residency in Villa Medici, can now be seen in the Perrotin in New York, open until 23rd October.
Your work uses a series of different mediums, such as painting, installation, sculpture, and video. What prompted you to become an artist initially? And, what is the importance for you in using multiple mediums?
Being an artist was not a conscious decision, it came much later! Today I am a visual artist but, in my opinion, this could change overnight. For me, it is mainly about the necessity of making. If tomorrow I no longer have this need, then it would change my relationship with the world, and I would have to find a new language to communicate with. For now, the need is still there and is indeed expressed through different mediums. I started with painting, but a single medium was not enough to properly depict the forms that appeared in my practice over time. A medium is like a favourite tool that has been carefully selected to unveil an image.
In the project Tell me if it’s not new, the city of Rome and the spaces of Villa Medici are the main characters. How did your time in Italy influence your creative process?
Tell me if it’s not new is a video project. It is a series of images shot in two ancient museums in Rome - Crypta Balbi [museum] and Diocletien period- and at the Villa Medici. It was important for me to set the scene in this city, which is none other than a mille-feuille [multilayered cake] of stories, an open-air museum. I was looking for Ancient Rome, without Renaissance nor Baroque influence. I wanted something almost naked, where the imagination never stops doing the mental work of reconstruction. This film was shot during my residency at the Villa and is a continuation of my interest in integrating the body into painting, [wearing it] as a second skin.
I did a performance called Haute Peinture, where the movement of the performers’ bodies, dressed in costumes made out of painted canvas, composed living pictures (tableaux vivants). Tell me if it’s not new tells the story of a character who turns into a painting, an impossible painting.

What is the main message you want the audience to leave a Mathilde Denize exhibition with?
That's a tough question! Messages are in high demand today. I am interested in when the public experiences a feeling. Like a rediscovered emotion we cannot frame inside of a word.
I am interested in an exhibition when it acts as a box in which things are stored. We all know what’s inside, but we need to see it again, to review it, to reopen the box. Ultimately, the feeling of discovering something that resonates or feels familiar is a sensation that stimulates me in an exhibition.
Your first solo exhibition is now open in New York. How does it feel to be at this stage in your career?
I am very excited to be exhibiting in New York! I am happy to be showing the work I developed this year at the Villa Medici, in an incredible studio. This year has been of great importance, as much in the means given to me as the meetings that I’ve been able to have in Rome. [Being in] New York and [having] the show at Perrotin are for me a way to celebrate this year. Some time ago I spent several months in New York. I painted on small cardboard boxes so I could bring everything back to France in my suitcase. I never imagined that one day I would move pieces from Rome to exhibit in NYC!
Now, your newest series for Perrotin, which features impressive paintings-as-garments, has a certain reference to genderless fashion, which is a movement in constant growth in the industry. Does the fashion world inspire your practice?
Fashion is everywhere. To me, fashion is above all a living space: clothing.From there anything is possible: subtle, extravagant, illuminated, fashion always inspires me through these extraordinary movements. There is fashion, its new trends, and then there are the inhabitants of fashion: how people overtake clothing and make new compositions out of them. Always overturning everything, constantly questioning appearances, this is how I work: never ceasing to be in motion at the risk of freezing, becoming immovable like a statue.

Did the pandemic environment, and especially isolation, have any noticeable impact in your creative process?
Yes, like everyone else, unable to leave my apartment, I worked within the scale of my table. I started to create a series of medium format watercolors. This has allowed me to conceive a whole series of sets for my future exhibitions. Today, watercolor is incorporated into my new paintings and will hopefully be in scenography for future exhibitions.
The colour and shape combinations used in your work create a very unique and rather soothing aesthetic. What or who would you say are the main inspirations behind your artistic identity?
My aesthetic inspirations change over the years. And there are those that remain. I could name a lot of artists, filmmakers, directors, writers, friends, parents and figures. I believe that the things that interest me are always linked to a form of subtlety, of silence and modest counterpower. As well as the economy of means, restraint and humour. For my project at the Villa, I was inspired by a filmmaker I’ve been fascinated by for a very long time, Sergei Pardjanov, and his movies from the 60s, including one called Sayat Nova.
You often create new works with fragments of past ones. How and why did you start doing this?
I had long wanted to express myself through figurative painting. In school, I tackled this for five years, but nothing worked, I was always unsatisfied. I kept these canvases on the side and one day, while unrolling them, some parts caught my interest. I cut out an initial shape in a very intuitive way: a form between a swimsuit and a Venus took shape. This figure was the first one to generate this idea of fragmented works. Today, I am transforming figures from these old canvases for my exhibition Reverse for a better move at Perrotin NYC. I find that the fragment has an enchanting charm.
If you could choose any one word to describe your art, what would that be?

Sofia Balestrin

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