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© Zoé Ducournau
© Zoé Ducournau
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You Won't Believe What This French Artist Does With the Humble Needle and Thread

Picture of Sylvia Edwards Davis
Updated: 20 November 2017
When there is no ready-made label to classify an atypical work of art, it is easier to define it by what it is not. French artist Mathieu Ducournau prefers not to refer to his work as textile art, but rather as “painting with thread.”

Mathieu Ducournau chooses needle and thread as the preferred medium of expression. Whether the gaibres are handled through a sewing machine or directly by his deft hand, the filaments appear to fall exactly as they should in an organized swirl of texture and color as both landscapes and portraits take on a life of their own.

“I am not that interested in the technique in itself,” says Ducournau, “as when people look at my art and say to me, wow, how did you manage to do that? To me it is much more interesting when they tell me that they found something in the art, that they thought they saw an apparition in the image, as if a ghost was paying an unexpected visit in the middle of a viewing.”

Mathieur Ducournau - Joconde#1 - 100 x 145 cm- 2017
Mathieu Ducournau | ©Zoé Ducournau

In his Anonymous series, the artist transforms every detail to bring out the personality of the subject of the portrait, but when he works on representations of famous classics, from Velázques to Leonardo, he doesn’t aim to make a reproduction of the painting but rather the intangible and vague impression or memory that we all have in our mind’s eye of these icons of our culture.

Mathieu Ducournau - la main sur le coeur in situ 145 x 100 cm 2017
Mathieu Ducournau, “Hand on Heart,” 2017 | ©Zoé Ducournau

Between the blurred lines and impossibly delicate sfumatto, it is very easy to forget the medium used to create the whole. “I choose this medium because of the extreme refinement of thread,” says Ducournau, “it’s as if I was working with dry paint. In any case it’s closer to painting than to working with fabric. Little by little the image appears. There is something in thread that makes me think of garments. It is a sensuality that I find very interesting. It is very human. After all, humans are the only species that have developed clothing.”

portrait de l'artitste dans son atelier
Mathieu Ducournau in his studio | ©Zoé Ducournau

Having worked in two of the main themes of art, portraits, and landscapes, Ducournau is now looking to the future to perhaps combine the two, likening his creative process with weaving his way through a forest to try to find what is hiding behind the next tree. With influences as varied as Rembrandt, El Greco, and admirative of the way Peter Doig brings together disparate themes, the future of Ducournau’s work is something to look forward to.

Mathieu Ducournau is showing at the Galerie Chevalier in Paris from December 1, 2017 until January 12, 2018.

17, quai Voltaire, Paris, France