French artist Mateo is a purveyor of nostalgia who roams the strata of our memory. Retrieving fragments of the past; a culture, a decade, a character, he injects them into the veins of his urban art in a tender and sweetly sentimental a way.

Soy el simbolo de la pasion by Mateo [France]

Born in Toulouse, France, Mateo lives nomadic lifestyle. Travelling regularly, his work transcends borders, and can be seen in counties such as Spain, Canada, Uruguay, Bolivia, Chili and Argentina. It also transcends time, the urban artist collects and feeds off various cultural reminiscences that he transmits into his art. He says “I love to travel I’m fascinated by the discovery of new cultures, new traditions. The latin culture, the asian culture. I don’t really have a particular preference, I simply take things that interest me, look for subjects, cut up images and put them together.”

Mateo’s stencil portraiture ARDiENTE (above), featured in this years Stencil Art Prize, channels a culture that appears timeworn and rooted in tradition, his Afro-American subject identified with by-gone era. Despite this, there is an ineffable sense of presence that accompanies his female subject. You can purchase Mateo’s artwork here.

Exuding bold determination and firm self-identity, the combination is undeniably arresting. Although, there is a gentle undercurrent of humanism there as well, exposed through his chosen colour palette of soft pastel hues. It also adds a sense of vitality to this foreign culture portrayed, easily labeled as obscure in contemporary society. Conjured in a such way that feels authentic and compelling, Mateo’s piece evokes strong sense of romantic nationalism, for a culture that is not his own.

ARDiENTE is a composition that originally manifested itself as a mural painting in Argentina, during the artists incursion into South America. During his 8 month travel, Mateo says “Sometimes I slept in hostels for free in exchange for wall mural painting. In Cordoba, Argentina, I painted a mural of this giant portrait in a tropical hostel. It was up to me to transcribe this new culture I discovered in my painting.” 

Channeling the vibrant, colorful aesthetics of South American street art, the artist was inspired by its ability to enliven its urban environment. Paired with a culmination of cultural influences he absorbed throughout the trip, Mateo says “ARDiENTE” attempts to pinpoint a moment in time. Here, he creates a temporal space that imbues his experience of travel, in all its immersive qualities.

Watch a video made last year in Montreal about Mateo painting a stencil Mural.

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