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  • Considered one of the pioneers of performance art and action painting, and credited with launching the Lyrical Abstraction movement and the greater trend of Informalism in post‐ war Paris, Georges Mathieu’s works have long been valorised for their dynamic vitality and intuitive approach. More than a painter, Mathieu was a theorist who meditated upon the true nature of lyrical abstraction. Having published a number of manifestos to define the movement, he emphasised 'a primacy of the speed of execution', the absence of any 'preexistence of form' or 'premeditation of gesture', as well as the importance of entering 'an ecstatic state' during the creation of a piece.i In line with his theoretical approach towards art making, Mathieu’s works are the result of an energy and speed released in what can only be described as a Dionysian fit of creative expression.

     

     

    Jackson Pollock, Number 1A, 1948
    Collection of the Museum of Modern Art, New York
    © 2021 Pollock-Krasner Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York 

     

    Indeed, the calligraphic and rhythmic quality of Mathieu’s paintings recall the gestural dynamism of Jackson Pollock’s drip, executed with an authority similar to the patterns of Hans Hartung’s late 1940s paintings as well as the gestural marks of Jean Degottex. Moreover, the French painter was also known to work straight out of the tube, squeezing threads of paint directly onto the canvas; Mathieu would execute large canvases before audiences while dressed in costume, and once made 21 paintings in a mere three days. Such a merging of painting and performance art anticipated the work of Yves Klein as well as the happenings of other artists of the late 1950s and 1960s.

      

    With his smallest paintings taking as little as 10 minutes, and the largest one requiring no more than a few hours to complete, the subconscious forces dominating Mathieu’s mediumistic trance recall the notion of psychic automatism elucidated by Breton, with a machine‐like efficiency mimicking the newly introduced production models in France at the time.

     

    Drawing inspiration from the philosophy and aesthetic of calligraphy from the Far East, the helter‐skelter array of lines and dashes spanning across Mathieu’s canvas embodies a direct translation of the spiritual to the material, with each mark a materialisation of pure emotion. What results is a hybrid between the ideograms of oriental calligraphy and Western heraldic symbols. In his paintings one finds a balance between the simulation of life in the marks and an equilibrium in the design of the piece, coordinated into rhythmic sequences built on strong chromatic contrasts.

     

     

    Georges Mathieu during a performance
    © Georges Mathieu/ADAGP, Paris & ARS, New York, 2021

     

    His work is revered by the famed poet and art critic John Ashbury, who wrote, '…but already the difficulty of the language, the speed with which things happen, the inexorable preciseness of the forms have given us a clue. And without realising it we have already begun to live in his world – like our own with the difference that everything is carried to its extreme – a world of pure emotion in which we are not always aware of what it is that lacerates us, that makes us rejoice.'ii

     

    Mathieu’s paintings can be found in more than eighty museums and permanent public collections, including the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York; the Art Institute of Chicago; Centre Pompidou, Paris; the Hirshhom Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; the Tate, London; the Musée National d’Art Moderne, Paris; the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, the Museum of Modern Art, New York. His work has been the subject of numerous retrospectives, including at, most recently, the K11 Musea, Hong Kong, and Galerie Perrotin, New York.

     

     

    i Édouard Lombard, 'The calligraphic nature of the work of Georges Mathieu', Georges Mathieu - the official website, online

    ii Georges Mathieu, as quoted in Édouard Lombard, 'Travel to Israel and the mystical period in the work of Georges Mathieu', Georges Mathieu - the official website, 30 May 2015, online

     

    • Provenance

      Private Collection
      Sotheby's, Milan, 21 November 1995, lot 181
      Elleni Galleria d'Arte, Bergamo
      Galleria Rossovermiglio, Padua
      Private Collection, Italy
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Literature

      Giovanni Granzotto, ed., Omaggio a Emilio Vedova e Hans Hartung: Sulle Tracce Dell'Informale in Europa, Sacile, 2011, p. 94 (illustrated)

197

Creux Amers (Bitter Hollows)

signed 'Mathieu' lower left; titled "CREUX AMERS" on the stretcher
oil on canvas
100 x 81 cm. (39 3/8 x 31 7/8 in.)
Painted in 1985, this work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity issued by the Comité Georges Mathieu.

Full Cataloguing

Estimate
HK$1,000,000 - 2,000,000 
€113,000-227,000
$128,000-256,000

Sold for HK$1,575,000

Contact Specialist

Danielle So
Specialist, Head of Day Sale
+852 2318 2027
[email protected]

20th Century & Contemporary Art & Design Day Sale in Association with Poly Auction

Hong Kong Auction 29 November 2021