Essence of Reality

Christine Flok, NY Arts Magazine, March/April 2006

Air, cloud, wind, smoke, fog, light and shadow: all exist in our world as mysterious entities that surround us yet barely take up space. Or do they? Polish-born artist and recent New Yorker, Anna VanMatre explores these beautiful yet overlooked aspects of nature in her art.

VanMatre is inspired by the real world, she studies her surroundings and channels the essence from the visages right there above the horizon. VanMatre’s art is focused on the clouds, the light, and the shadows that are composed through their merging.

Each of her pieces is first a drawing, utilizing elements such as contrast, gradation of shades, light, space and energy. Drawing is VanMatre’s first impulse, and it is the one that guides each of her works, whether it is a silk-screen, lithograph or seemingly “ordinary” graphite composition.

The light in her art is provided by the negative space that is surrounded by the curvaceous shading. With VanMatre, it is clear that the space in between the lines in each drawing is as important as the line itself. This notion is clearly a reference to music where it is understood that the rest, or the silence between the notes, is significant to composing the harmony.

This is particularly evident in such installations In Time In Between–Smoke, and In Time In Between–Volcano, a series of vertical paper panels of smoky clouds and gaseous vapors. It is a of ideas that are only confined by the paper itself. The three-dimensional clouds seem to move up and off the frame, about to vanish into nothingness. The viewer can walk between panels in these installations as high as 20-feet that reproduce a fantasy world while dually representing reality.

VanMatre states that her desire is “to show a magnified view of [her] inspirations.” Her latest series examines the structure of air. In Clouds and White, Grey, Black Cloud, she places three layers of plexiglass on top of one another, spaced slightly apart. The shapes are silkscreened in different shades onto the layers to produce a wonderful repetition and depth, leaving behind a faint shadow on the gallery wall as the light travels through the work.

Her plexiglass and silkscreen experimentation is one that is very unusual. It is her way of reinterpreting her focus (clouds), revealing them with a very different energy and technique. When making her pieces, she keeps in mind that she is not trying to capture the reality of anything; instead, she is capturing the essence of it.

In VanMatre’s most recent project, “Lines Above,” VanMatre explores the skyscape that hovers over certain cities. The project is more conceptual than others, while still focusing on a similar subject: capturing the spontaneity of nature in clouds. She began by photographing the space right above the horizon in 18 different cities across the nation, including Miami, New York, Cincinnati and New Orleans, and embarked on freehand graphite drawings of the clouds above these cities.

The idea that each city has a different looking sky is unique, yet seems so obvious. In nature, anything affects everything. The amount of citizens in each city, the landscape, the pollution, the climate, all are factors that can alter the ecosystem at large. But VanMatre is not interested in the science of this matter, she is simply exploring new ways to express the freedom that she feels when her hand is at work capturing these fluid moving giants.

The project features 18 different images. Each one of the images has a different character. New Orleans’ clouds appear similar to bubbles, round and weightless. New York’s clouds are more like a haze, a blanket that slowly is pushed along by wind. Dallas’ are dense, filling the picture completely. Miami’s clouds fill the composition, yet allow for some glimpses of the magnificent blue sky.

VanMatre often reinforces her paper with a plastic coating on the back to make the paper stronger, or uses a synthetic paper on which she uses graphite in different forms. VanMatre uses powder when trying to show fog, parts of images that are not meant to be sharp, or composed of defined lines. She uses a suede cloth and a brush to get this effect. For finer, stronger lines, VanMatre uses graphite sticks ranging in density. For bands of multiple lines, her weapon of choice is cracked graphite. She even uses her feet as brush es when working with larger projects. All of these different tools provide Anna VanMatre with her unique style, through which she reaches her theme of “different techniques, different emotions, different energies.”

NY Arts Magazine, March/April 2006