In the abstracted space of this painting, we see several of Manuel Mathieu's essential concerns converging. In a formal sense, elements of landscape and portraiture are coming together within the architectural structure. In a narrative sense, the content reflects Mathieu's interest in memory and personal history, and his connection with the energies that affect and protect living things. Mathieu frequently uses personal and historical photographs from his upbringing in Haiti as reference points for his compositions, blurring the lines between past, present and future. In this image, the gaze of the figure is literally looking over a barrier, extending beyond the known into the unknown, while also seeming to suggest a sort of spiritual or ancestral presence looking over us.
While 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. Representing these ambiguities in his practice beautifully, Overlooking Gaze oscillates between figure and landscape, creating room for the viewer to take a stance as best informed by their own aesthetic instincts.