Cultural Chronicle of New York (art)

Czeslaw Karkowski, Nowy Dziennik, June 4, 2004

Two years ago, Anna VanMatre showed her paintings from the cycle “No” at Gallery@49 (322 W. 49th Street). This year, her second exhibition in New York City (the artist lives and works in Cincinnati, Ohio), is entitled “In Time In Between” and once again presents the world of powerful and fascinating forces of nature. Previously, the theme of the cycle was water, and this time it is fire and smoke. In the seven paintings entitled “Metamorphoses-Fire” (reality of war-like, ecological disaster?) the viewer sees the world in its ultimate distraction, from which nothing has been saved and all is covered with flames (the only element of color) and masses of dark-grey clouds-smoke. The Installation “In Time In Between” are presented separately; hung right at the ceiling – painted on a special synthetic paper with rough cut edges – big, loosely hanging “pictures” of smoke. Suspended in different angles, the paintings create an effect of great depth, which seems to pull in the viewer.

Achieving three-dimensional character of the reality using two-dimensional medium seems to fascinate Anna VanMatre. In a couple of her collages, presented in New York, the artist applies multiple coatings, which, as an opening curtain under many stormy layers, reveal the core of matters – the ultimate character of what is important – peaceful, solid and uninterrupted. Anna sees the world as a theatrical structure with many drapes, behind which truth is hidden…the truth enveloped in so many cocoons and layers, wrapped in so many scales and influences that only a cataclysm could rip them all off.

The world of the artistic imagination of Anna VanMatre is the reality of a cosmic catastrophe, reality of enormous and furious natural forces in their frontal attack. These forces can be strong and destructive but at the same time creative. Therefore, it is the world in creation, when the old forms are destroyed and shattered into dust, into gassy cloud of elements, so that they can reform into different configurations and become something new.

It is, however, important to remember that the art of Anna VanMatre is abstraction that stimulates the viewer’s individual imagination which, in turn, gives the artworks various meanings. Anna works mainly in black and white, only rarely applying some color – rather to emphasize the shades of black and white than to present color itself. Sometimes the color in her art plays the role of a destination point – an ultimate and final layer after the removal of each rough and clumsy one. The less of the color used the stronger accent it becomes among the darkness of the whole composition.

Anna VanMatre (is now showing many of her smaller artworks in addition to her bigger “clouds-smoke.”) loves gigantic, elongated compositions, but it is often simply impossible to present them in the smaller Manhattan galleries.