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Matthieu Bourel

May 04/2015
INTERVIEW Glen Leavitt


Matthieu Bourel is a collage and digital artist whose work veers uneasily from nostalgia to technological dystopia. Bourel combines traditional cut and paste collage techniques with digital editing, digital animation, and even sound design to create a body of work that blurs the distinction between illustration, graphic design and art installation.

Bourel describes his work as “data-ism” and the reference to the original Dada movement of the early twentieth century is more than a play on words. Like his Dadaist precursors, Bourel delights in creating shocking juxtapositions, ironic distance and high-brow/low-brow mash-ups.



“One of the goals of art is not just to distract people, but more to reveal some ideas or share a point of view, to create a reaction/interaction with the viewer, with humour, irony or sarcasm. I feel probably closer to Dada than surrealism for these reasons. Surrealism was too coded by theory.”

We live in an era full of information everywhere. A constant flow. Internet, phones, television. Commercials in the streets. The term data-ism is for me a way to digest all of this, in an artistic way.

For Bourel, collage is a way of sifting through and responding to the glut of information constantly bombarding us. In an age of visual overload, the artist’s job is as much to collect, curate, and critically rearrange imagery as it is to create anew. “We live in an era full of information everywhere. A constant flow. Internet, phones, television. Commercials in the streets. The term data-ism is for me a way to digest all of this, in an artistic way.”

It’s not a coincidence if it sounds like Bourel is taking a note from the world of hip-hop and music sampling. Bourel draws an explicit connection: “Source material will usually define the direction of the collage. Also the technique. Traditional hand-cut or digital, as I try to do in music. I have made music since my childhood. It’s all related I think. Cut and paste and experiments. To play with my influences.” One of Bourel’s heroes is Jean-Michel Basquiat, who was also interested in hip-hop and the connection between sampling in music and the kind of visual sampling that goes on in Bourel’s art.

Bourel’s technique is guided by pragmatism. He has no philosophical allegiance to a particular method. He prefers whatever tool is the best to make the art he wants. “I try to stay as realist as possible with digital. When in the traditional collage, you have to go with the limitations of the image you have, like the colour or position of elements, with the digital you can modify everything by colour manipulation, symmetry. That’s another playground and I love it. Everything is possible. My solution is to focus on simple tools to give my message. Otherwise you can get lost easily.”

Bourel’s influences are equally wide-ranging. Beyond Dadaism and Basquiat, he is inspired by Magritte, Bacon, Picasso, Picabia, Ernst, Miro, Dali, Pollock, Rothko, “cubists, constructivists, abstractionists, suprematists and everything else.” What matters to Bourel is figuring out how each artist works, dissecting their lives to see how that informs their work. “For each artist I like or discover, I go deeply in their work and personal biography, by books, documentary, movies or Wikipedia. I like to learn from them, in no particular order, where they succeeded, and where they failed, artistically or personally. To understand more who they were, their life context, and so the state of their art and its evolution.”


Bourel is clear about the role that art plays in his life. For him, it is a compulsion and a pleasure. Whatever material benefit he might gain from it, he has no plans of stopping. “Publish or Perish. My pleasure is to share it with people. They like it or not. I won’t modify my art for the people. I do this because I have the need to do it. The art market is another story. I’m amazed sometimes to notice how people will have a blast on one collage or portrait, and not the one next to it, when I don’t see any difference of pleasure in the making.”

Bourel is restless. He has to keep creating new art, in new ways. In that sense, he is a perfect reflection of the restless age we live in. “I go in various ways, to not stay stuck in a particular style. I hate routine, and to feel like a sheep in a box. I need a large field to experiment. No limitation anymore. Hands up, you’re free!”


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Juha Arvid Helminen

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