The Woman ‘… with and without a halo...’


The Woman

‘… with and without a halo...’

Exhibition of Matei Mateev – Matyu

On the 2nd of February the famous and most vehement contemporary expressionist of his generation, Matei Mateev – Matyu, shall open his exhibition ‘The Woman’ in the exhibition hall of Contrast Gallery. Being born in the town of Kyustendil, but having been quickly integrated in the spirit of the classic Plovdiv bohemian circle as early as in the 80s of the 20th century, the artist will surprise his admirers, and not only them. I belive that this exhibition shall not go unnoticed and it shall provoke comments varying between the two extremes of acceptance and rejection. And this is so not only because of the expressive and vivid style of Matyu, but also due to the fact that he makes an effort to add something more to the famous novel of French writer Guy Bechtel ‘Les Quatre Femmes de Dieu: La putain, la sorcière, la sainte et Bécassine /The Four Wives of God: the Bitch, the Witch, the Saint and the Silly/’ (Plon, 2000).

His stout figures of women on burlap fill in the entire space of a painting and they stare at us shamelessly and lustfully in their nudity. Via the adopted spectacular close-ups, the undisguised in places grotesque and the lack of any anxiety on the part of the artist if they will be liked or not, they have taken down the masks of false morals and have become accomplices in the psycho-theatre of sin and human passions. In this way they go beyond the frame of the ‘Four Wives of God’ with the ravaging fury of one who joins the 'game of life’.

It is well known that under the canon of East Orthodox Christianity the iconography of a woman embodies the features of virtuousness and saintliness in contrast to Catholic art where she is depicted in her divinity and sinfulness. Matei Mateev’s women face us in their complete nudity without a trace of bashfulness and any gender complex, crucified between Hell and Paradise, good and evil, the most base and the most noble sentiments, placed on a pedestal or having fallen down from there …. with or without a halo.

They are far away from ‘the eternal, timeless Goddess of life’ depicted by Dechko Uzunov, and they are beyond the martyr and the saint incarnated in the image of Madonna. They are simply the women of the time we live in, crucified between performance and depression, secretiveness and nude candidness, serenity and grief. Confused times! Times of ostentation and hypocrisy.

You should not think that this is all Matei Mateev presents to our attention with this exhibition. He is also famous as an author of manually produced unique objects of art, i.e. books of aphorisms and drawings to illustrate them, which we shall also see displayed. In one of them he says: ‘No one can take the sun away from me’. And this is absolutely true. In one of the pictures a woman embraces a cock-of-the-wood – the bird known to go into self-oblivion expressing his feelings of love. And I believe that this can hardly be by chance. Is it not the missing element to be added to the four definitions of a woman – the element that would make her revisit her original destination?!

I do not know – I would leave the answer to the intuition of those who will come to see the unusual greetings of Contrast Gallery on the occasion of the coming ‘women’s month’.

Axinia Dzurova