A drawing… A line: Meeting with Mathieu Dufois
Marlène Pegliasco

New Art Collector 2019 prize, awarded during the 2018 edition of the FIAC under the glass roof of the Grand Palais in Paris, Mathieu Dufois is rewarded for his graphic work combining drawing sheet and photographic paper, drawing and 7th art in strange games of similarities, playing with our perceptions and appreciations.

His black stone drawings are inspired by the cinematographic shots of American detective films of the 1950s, reproductions, worn images that have survived over time and that are reworked with mineral matter The density of the black stone creates universe troubles, sometimes ghostly, sometimes intriguing, where the characters seem to decompose in the whiteness of the reserves.

For several years, Mathieu Dufois’s work has been exhibited in various places: a solo exhibition in 2015 at the Centre de Création Contemporaine Olivier Debré de Tours (CCCOD); at the Drawing Now exhibition with the gallery that represents him, the Galerie Particulière/Galerie Foucher-Biousse, Il revient actuellement d’une résidence au Fayoum Art Center in Egypt, in partnership with the CCCOD and two personal exhibitions will be on display this fall.

Born in 1984, Mathieu Dufois, passionate about cinema, composes drawings, models and videos. Drawing is the basis of all its production. A drawing that transcribes the still images of these dark films, populated by heroines and gangsters. Mathieu Dufois also draws inspiration from old photographs or those taken by him for the Harem series.

Film sequences anchored in the minds, places steeped in history, he explores a collective memory, deciphered by a particular emotion, reinterpreted by the black stone whose trace on the paper brings a new density. Drawing, like cinema, is related to the notion of time. In the drawing, the image gradually reveals itself and makes characters who have already existed reappear. An almost three-dimensional aspect emerges from his work where each shape is put into volume. The intense black brings such depth that each character seems to stand out, as in the series The Eclipse… A drawn model.
Photographs and archival images form the inspiration for these drawings and compose unknown territories to invest. The grain of the paper and the texture of the black stone bring an enigmatic, unfathomable consistency. Subtle evanescence. Superimposed fades, abstract shapes, guess when the scene is located. The shadow shapes the scene, more than light, strange and disturbing scenes on the borderline between reality and onirism, between fiction and myth. Old images so as not to disturb those from our daily lives. Or an animal world in negative. Like not seeing the real thing. The artist tries to go beyond the limits of graphic language in order to rewrite a past history.
With his unique technique – the black backgrounds are first drawn and then blurred with an eraser – Mathieu Dufois thus creates bridges between these images that cross our eyes and impregnate us and our existence. From the 7th art to the graphic arts, from the real world to the intimate worlds, it is now up to everyone to compose their own scenarios.

Marlène Pegliasco: Mathieu Dufois, tell us about your work process.
Mathieu Dufois: I am not in a process of overproduction. I am someone who feeds, observes and soaks up the places I go. During my last residency at the Fayoum Center, I did not draw but I took many notes, photographs, made sketches and it is now, once I entered my workshop in Tours, that I will start working. With this creative approach technique, I shape several ideas, I vary the drawing, the idea of volume, the idea of moving images with video…. Also, the models are an important part of my work, they are essential elements to make my films but they are also a kind of decoration to experiment the drawing with image projections. I like to work on the difference in textures, to play on scale ratios, from the infinitely large to the infinitely small. As for my inspiration, I play on the collective memory. In 2017, in the Dordogne, I ventured into the animal relationships and the first subjects that prehistoric beings represented in the caves. At Fayoum, I was facing ruins and millenary remains. All this makes sense.

M.P.: Your favourite material is black stone. How does it reflect your inspiration?
M.D.: When I was a student, I worked a lot with graphite and graphite and lead pencil and the more my drawings ventured into nocturnal subjects, the more brilliant their aspects were, which didn’t suit me because I wanted to find a matte texture. A teacher advised me to focus on engraving, but in the end, it was a series of drawings made with black stone in Turin that triggered my heart for this medium. Black brings a density, a kind of velvety on paper that resembles the silver grain of old photographs, a density that is fully expressed on paper like arches paper. Black stone is a technical tool to work with. The tip is thick and can no longer be erased because it leaves traces. When I want to create very white areas on the drawing, I avoid dust mixing with it or I work with the black technique, an old technique from engraving that brings out the whites. With the black stone, I blur the shapes, I draw very representative features and others blurred enough so that the faces are not recognizable so that each image reactivates a personal memory.

M.P.: Your drawing is very much inspired by cinema.
M.D. : We all grew up with cinema and the idea is to take over the past, not as nostalgia but as something intense that lives in us and has something to tell us and to reveal to us. The Hors Vue series is based on films made by my father in Super 8. The texture is blurred, granular, something ghostly emerges, the characters – even if they are my family – are barely recognizable. This relationship to the past ended up in my home in the Dordogne. To go to the source, to the edge of creation, in the cellars where the first images were created, the first animated images when we see the way our ancestors represented the illusion of movement in the Chauvet Cave. It is not a nostalgia, a form of regret on the contrary: returning to the seeds allows us to better develop creation. And I want to push this creation to the deepest level, that the relationships between past and present be nourished, that ideas be used to create a form of continuity between primitive and digital gestures. As in the visual arts, we have to come back to mediums that have been set aside, the idea of a loop keeps coming up in my work as if to break down borders, as if to refer to the past and the present. Understand the root of all these artistic forms.

M.P: Does drawing push you into your other creative fields?
M.D. : I don’t have a single label, I’m a draftsman, filmmaker, plastic artist, all at the same time. Thanks to the model and video, I will be able to extend the drawing to 3D, perceive the volumes, enter the interior of the material, provide an illusion, bring movement. This film/art background is interesting because I mix scenography, painting, sculpture, which allows me to combine the supports so that everyone can enter into resonance to open onto something else. When am I a filmmaker or visual artist? None, to me, there is no difference.


Portrait of a draftsman:
If I were a drawing: a sketch of Géricault as his body studies.
A favorite technique: blurring with black stone.
The most unusual medium: the luminous flux of the video projection.
“Drawing is like”: to exist.