In Pacot, the neighborhood in Port-au Prince where Manuel Mathieu grew up, there was a man in the neighborhood who people thought of as eccentric, or sometimes even not in his right mind. Many people though, including Manuel's family, considered him a friend, who sometimes played the role of protector, but also was sometimes uncontrollable. Manuel recalls how dear this man was to him, and when the man died his presence stayed with Manuel. On one of Manuel's trips back to Haiti before this man died, Manuel took a photograph of him, and on the photograph put the sentence 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.