Tonino Mattu

(b. 1979, IT)

Portrait of Tonino Mattu. / Photo: Courtesy TM.

Tonino Mattu, born in 1979 in Nuoro, Sardinia, Italy, is an Italian visual artist living and working Oristano, Sardinia, Italy.[1] Mattu is known for his characteristic oil paintings of figures hovering between reality and fiction, effectuated by using a warm palette dominated by raw and/or burnt umber and sienna.

The Italian artist continuously examines the human figure from a pictorial and socio-historical point of view. Marked by a strong affinity for history, Mattu takes on socio-political issues from the 20th century up to today in the tradition of a wider movement of New European Painting, such as the lingering effects and the collective trauma of the Second World War or our recent colonial history.

The source material for Mattu's works is diverse. Often, the artist takes on archival photographic images and reworks by removing them from their original context, erasing, fading or altering certain elements. As a result, a unique tension emerges between abstraction and figuration, using the boundaries and composition lines of the original image as a guideline from which he artistically deviates.

Biography – Career facts

As a self-taught artist, Mattu has studied painting over the years drawing a unique trajectory. In 2005, his immersive research of the human figure takes place in the United Kingdom, studying the works of Lucian Freud among others. Further, Mattu moved to Berlin where he lived between 2009 and 2010. At this point, the socio-historical emphasis in his artistic process leads to a series of works titled La Grande Guerra (The Great War), occupying the artist until roughly 2014.[2]

In 2010, Mattu's intensive work and research is received by a first museum show at the Quartissimo Museum in Quartu Sant'Elena, Italy and a solo show at Sottopiano Gallery in Cagliari, Italy. In the same year, his works receive further national recognition being selected as a finalist for the prestigious Sulmona Prize. In 2011, Mattu participates in the 54th Venice Biennale at the Italian Pavilion, followed by a second museum show in his birth town Nuoro, Sardinia, Italy.[3]

During the coming years, the Italian artist is selected for several important art awards. For instance, in 2013 Mattu is selected as a finalist for the Carlo Bonatto Minella Award. In 2014, he is yet again selected as a finalist, this time for the Pio Alferano Award. The following year, Mattu achieves first place winning the Marchioni Award and in 2016 he achieves international recognition being selected as a finalist for the Wells Art Contemporary (WAC) Awards in the United Kingdom.[4]

In 2017, Mattu leaves Sardinia for the Romanian capital, Bucharest, working on a solo show for the renowned Italian Institute of Culture before returning to Oristano, Sardinia, where the artist currently resides and continuous to work.

From this point on, the international art scene embraces the works by Tonino Mattu, resulting in exhibitions in Neuhausen am Rheinfall, Switzerland and München, Germany. As a result, Mattu's works are collected by many private collections across Europe and beyond.

Selected works – 2018-2020

Tonino Mattu, Smiling girl, 2020. Oil on linen – 40 x 50 cm. Courtesy of the artist.

Tonino Mattu, Fedele, 2020. Oil on linen – 100 x 80 cm. Courtesy of the artist.

Tonino Mattu, La scrittrice, 2019. Oil on linen – 40 x 50 cm. Courtesy of the artist.

Tonino Mattu, Coloniale, 2019. Oil on linen – 70 x 100 cm. Courtesy of the artist.

Tonino Mattu, Zebra, 2019. Oil on linen – 100 x 80 cm. Courtesy of the artist.

Tonino Mattu, I fedeli, 2019. Oil on linen – 50 x 40 cm. Courtesy of the artist.

Tonino Mattu, Parade, 2019. Oil on linen – 50 x 40 cm. Courtesy of the artist.

Tonino Mattu, Nimrod, 2019. Oil on linen – 50 x 40 cm. Courtesy of the artist.

Tonino Mattu, I coloni, 2018. Oil on linen – 100 x 80 cm. Courtesy of the artist.

Tonino Mattu, Gli ascoltatori, 2018. Oil on linen – 40 x 50 cm. Courtesy of the artist.

Published online on 19/01/2021 by Contemporary Art Issue

© 2021


[1] Tonino Mattu, Bio at https://www.toninomattu.it/about/ consulted 19/01/2021.

[2] Luisa Cattuci Gallery, Tonino Mattu at https://www.luisacatucci.com/tonino-mattu/ consulted 19/01/2021.

[3] Ibidem note 1.

[4] Ibidem note 1.

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