Manuel Mathieu and Sebastien Jean Shake Up Paris

By Stephanie Nazywalskyj Friday, December 28th, 2012 Categories: Features, Reviews, Updates

Jean Luc Clergue, Sebastien Morel, and Orlinda Lavergne are definitely on to something. These three private Haitian art collectors and subsequent founders of Agwe Galerie (Colmar, France; 2010), in collaboration with the Embassy of Haiti in France and the Musee du Montparnasse, recently launched an exhibition titled Haiti: Radical and Contemporary showcasing Haitian-born artists Sebastien Jean and Manuel Mathieu.

Orlinda Lavergne, Manuel Mathieu and Sébastien Jean at Musee du Montparnasse. Dec 2012. All photographs courtesy of Agwe Galerie.

The exhibition opened to the French public on Dec 20th 2012 at the Musee du Montparnesse, located in the museum’s self-titled, historical art district of Paris, and was received by a mass crowd of historians, journalists, professors, curators, gallery owners, fellow artists, and art enthusiasts who expressed a genuine interest in and intrigue towards the artistic practices emanating out of the Caribbean, and Haiti in particular.

Manuel Mathieu and Sébastien Jean at Musee du Montparnasse

Manuel Mathieu installation at Musee du Montparnasse

With the scenography orchestrated by Mario Benjamin, one of Haiti’s leading contemporary artists, the space honoured these two up and coming artists’ strengths and individual artistic concerns, while concurrently inviting the viewer into a conjoined world that exceeds the voodoo traditions that are typically associated with Haiti.

Self-taught artist, Sebastien Jean, finds inspiration in his roots and from way of life in Haiti—“the mingling cries, happiness, misery and joy”—before transforming his emotions and perceptions into large, abstract, and highly sexualized forms in rich, dark and metalized colours. Faintly etched into some of his canvasses are passages that give further insight into this 32 year olds mind, but the artist confesses that it is his use of “black charcoal and dust which gives life to his works.”

Sébastien Jean installation at Musee du Montparnasse. December 2012

Haïti radical Contemporain. Musee du Montparnasse. December 2012

While Manuel Mathieu presents figures that are comparably exaggerated and colossal in size, his approach and paintings are less rudimentary. With a BA in Visual Art and Media from UQAM in Montreal, Manuel demonstrates a remarkable sensibility towards the human condition: “I share emotions from pieces of my thoughts. The former do not define me. They come from this mutual space in which we are all connected.” His interpermeation is then combined with and enhanced by a more modern and refined concern for space, depth, colour, and ambiance.

During an era of cultural heterogeneousness and the globalization of art, both Manuel Mathieu and Sebastien Jean position themselves as contemporary and universal. What the people behind the Agwe Galerie have caught on to and aim to spotlight is that Haitian art reveals a fascinating facet of otherness that the rest of the world both empathizes with and increasingly craves. In addition to Manuel and Sebastien’s international exposure in recent years, another testimony to this is the Haiti art exhibit being held at France’s prestigious Grand Palais in 2014.

Haïti radical Contemporain. Musee du Montparnasse. December 2012

Should the New Year incidentally lead you to Paris, Haiti: Radical and Contemporary runs until January 13th 2013 and is well worth your time.

Stephanie Nazywalskyj
Stephanie Nazywalskyj

Stephanie Nazywalskyj is an English Literature Major, PR Graduate, and Montreal-born writer. Passionate about humanitarian work, she supports non-profits in their efforts overseas, as well as artists of all types by writing about their projects and successes. In her spare time she indulges her wanderlust by escaping to faraway places such as Europe, Australia … and the West Coast of Canada. Her seductively plump cheeks are the result of being raised on wholesome, hearty Ukrainian food.