Jean-Claude Mathieu (born 1951)

I recently spent time with Mathieu at his studio in France discussing his démarche , his point of departure, his ideas on figuration and his influences.

Mathieu told me he believes, “La beauté n’existe pas. Il faut vivre la beauté pour en avoir conscience.” For him, the process of sculpting is the living of beauty, the means by which beauty can be truly realised. To receive one has to forget the self, to empty the consciousness in order to see, and then use the consciousness to translate.

Hence, working from the model is essential in order to be able to capture the immediate, to perpetually discover afresh. One must always see the totality, and the detail in relation to the totality. Mathieu says that one has to find a pose which corresponds to the model and captures her psyche. In effect, the model proposes the pose. The model must give of herself, be aware of the body and give of the body; in a real sense, the model makes the sculpture.

He sees the sculpting process as happening from the inside to the outside. It is as if there is a seed which is allowed to grow through him. This is the exact opposite of starting with a block of stone and chiseling away to reveal the sculpture.

Mathieu believes that technique translates the moment of living beauty, and must be in the service of nature, of the life which animates the world. One must have so mastered one’s technique as to be unaware of it — and thereby free to create. Drawing is the essential skill; sculpture is simply drawing in space. He takes issue with art schools which imagine they can teach creativity and dispense with technique. For Mathieu, creation cannot be taught — it is a state of being oneself.

Mathieu is clearly in the figurative tradition, a tradition which has never stopped. There has been no rupture, as the avant garde and contemporary art world would have us believe, just as there has been no artistic progress, this being a post-enlightenment scientific concept inappropriate to art.

He has designed and made his own ‘machine’ for enlarging sculpture, which he set up in his atelier in the Vendée in 1980. The machine is like a 3D artograph machine made with old bicycle wheels, steel wire and weights! Making enlargements for other sculptors has been his bread and butter, and has allowed him to examine very closely the work of others, as well as enlarging various pieces of his own.

He has won prizes for his works and collaborated with sculptors such as Cacheux, Kretz, Auffret, Ginioux and Gadene in the realisation of many public monuments. He cites as his main influences his maîtres Kretz and Auffret, who were in their turn influenced by Bordele, Maillol, Rodin, and Carpeaux.

1968-70: Ecole supérieure des Beaux Arts Reims, studying under sculptors Leopold Kretz and Charles Auffret
1970-71: Ecole des Art decoratifs Strasbourg, working with Francois Cacheux
1971-78: Ecole supérieure des Beaux Arts Paris, studying at the atelier Corbin-Cardot

2009: ‘Les Signes du corps’, Trélazé Angers
2008: ‘Sculptures et dessins’, Galerie Genty, Vouvant
2004: ‘Dessins et peintures’, La Nef Theodelin, Vouvant
2003: ‘Sculptures au Donjon’, Bazoges-en-Pareds
1981-2002: Invited to exhibit by the towns of Rochefort, Chaumont, Cholet, Laval and Le Mans

Salon des Sculpteurs contemporains, Nantes
Salon d’automne, Angers
Salons de Sculptures of Cholet, La Rochelle, La Roche sur Yon, Copenhagen, la Garnache, Carquefau.
Salon de sculpture de notre temps, Versailles

2002: Prix Evariste Jonchère
2000: Prix Dimon
1994: Salon des artistes Français — Grand prix de dessin & Medaille Bronze dans la discipline de sculpture
1993: Prix de la Fondation de France for the totality of his oeuvre

20008-10: ‘Henous’ sculpture for Place Picasso, Trelaze-Angers
1998: ‘Kanon’ sculpture for Zen Temple, Plazac
1994: Bas relief for church of Nantes

£5000 — £30000
All bronzes are in an edition of eight with two artist proofs