In Pacot, the neighborhood in Port-au-Prince where Manuel Mathieu grew up, there was a man whom people considered eccentric, or perhaps not "in his right mind." Many people, however, including Mathieu's family, considered him a friend, who sometimes played the role of protector, but at other times was uncontrollable. Mathieu recalls how dear this man was to him, and when the man died his presence stayed with Mathieu. On a trip back to Haiti before the man's death, Mathieu took a photograph of him and on the photograph wrote the question in Creole, "MANNO KOTE'W?" or "Manuel where are you?" This painting, Will, from 2018, was inspired by this man, and that photograph.
While Manuel Mathieu (b. 1986, Haiti) has developed an aesthetic trajectory that may be easily traced to his Haitian upbringing, his work articulates his positionality from a multitude of realities and perspectives. Reposing on his own multiplicity, the abstractness of his work conveys the abundance in existing at the intersection of racial, geographical, and cultural identities. Mathieu’s abstract imagery taps into the unrepresentable and elusive -- he offers emotional and spiritual nuances that post-structuralist critiques neglect. He presents historical paintings that rely on emotive and speculative thinking as a form of knowledge production. He abandons figurative or didactic western traditions for a more interactive mode of interpretation where the viewers are actively participating in formulating their understanding of the work.