Pax Romana release
‘the two hundred year peace which existed in Europe under the Roman Empire’
In Pax Romana Juliette Mahieux Bartoli explores hybrid identity. She brings to light the experience of those who have to build their selves from many different cultural and national contexts. Her paintings embody this, the characters showing their multiple cultural fragments while remaining a coherent whole. Mahieux Bartoli argues that this is ubiquitous in 21st century life as few people are truly culturally singular.
The characters in Mahieux Bartoli’s painting are coherent in their multiple facets, a compound of awkwardly harmonious limbs and heads and gaps. They form a single intelligent entity moving within a universe of flat, bright colour. They are all female, and all strong, carrying a sense of confidence and purpose. However, their inner workings remain a mystery as their parts blend and move together. Each work stands alone, although some such as Hekate Green and Eos Red interact and converse. The focus of Mahieux Bartoli’s work is on the figures she invents, but she also explores abstract form. This occurs through the flat geometry of the fragmentation, and use of drapery as a compositional device tobridge abstraction and representation.
Each character is named. The first name from Greek or Roman mythology implies aspects of the character’s traits, and the surname is the colour of the background. Mahieux Bartoli is acknowledging the unity and diversity of European cultural heritage. The first name is not translated, whereas the surname will change according to the spoken language. For example: Hekate Green becomes Hekate Verde in Italian and Hekate Vert in French.
A sensitivity to cultural difference runs through this body of work. Mahieux Bartoli recognises there are subconscious and conscious moments in the formation of our identity. We are archetypal sponges, absorbing culture from a young age, and multiple cultures if we are displaced. Only later do we become aware of the eclectic nature of our identity. Mahieux Bartoli's making process reflects this. The artist is photographed while playing - in a return to child-like make-believe; these accidental poses revealing archetypal gestures. Mahieux Bartoli chooses, combines, and cuts these images into a composition. She then executes the work in oil paint, using an aesthetic language infused with the Italian Renaissance. She shows a stylistic sensitivity for idealised and softened figuration, and exploits drapery both for its sensuous and abstract qualities; she also uses a thinly veiled verdaccio for her skin tones (the muddy-green colour developed for underpainting). By embracing this visual language and reinterpreting it with flat colour and geometric abstraction, Mahieux Bartoli echoes intercultural fusion in form as well as content.