Inside the Artist’s Studio: Anna VanMatre

NY Arts Magazine, March/April 2005

Anna Socha VanMatre’s paintings scream at the viewer shock and fear and hope. Her post-September 11 works act as a cry for sanity, their emotional content even more penetrating then VanMatre’s previous works. VanMatre, a Polish born artist who has been painting since 1978, constructs graphite paintings on monumental three-dimensional surfaces. Her works have been presented on many exhibitions in different
countries and have been described by critics as “symphonies of blackness, gray and light” and a significant step in “liberating” the drawing idiom. At the exhibition in Jerusalem Center for the Arts, her installation was praised as much more then the series of static drawings: “a thing of theatrical character, an interaction between the stage and the audience.”

NY Arts: How would you describe what it is that you do?

Anna VanMatre: I show the power and beauty of nature, its essential aesthetic and complexity, using a quite simple technique: graphite on paper, sometimes with a touch of color. Nature has a power that scares us, terrifies us, but a prettiness which always amazes us. We are both witnesses and players in this great performance. Stormy clouds, tornados, rains, erupting volcanoes, big waves, fires, nuclear proliferations, and industrial pollutions bring deadly disasters, but nothing can be compare to their attractiveness. I always wanted to make my drawings look as three dimensional as possible to make the viewers feel like they’re in the middle of this spectacle. I like to use powerful methods like cutting, tearing,
doubling the surfaces, and performing expansive installations. The new installation, In Time In Between, is particularly enveloping and brings the viewers directly inside the work.

NY Arts: Why do you make art?

AVM: I new from my early age that I would be an artist. I was painting my first clouds in second grade.

NY Arts: What kind of music do you listen to while you work? How does it influence your work?

AVM: I listen to a lot of jazz and classical music. I was absorbed in the music of Krzysztof Penderecki when I was preparing an exhibition in conjunction with one of his concerts. I was fascinated by his Violin Concerto #2 (Metamorphoses) and I chose this composition as inspiration for my own Metamorphoses.

NY Arts: If you could own any single piece of art, what would you choose and why?

AVM: An Anselm Kiefer. I really like his visions and his sense of texture. A great selection of large, heavily-textured paintings.

NY Arts: Has there ever been a particular space that inspired your work? Where do you work best?

AVM: I can work practically everywhere; I need only a big flat surface on the floor, good light, and to be alone. Also, it’s best if I can see the horizon.

NY ARTS: Do you experience creative blocks? What gets you out of them?

AVM: Sometimes. The best thing for me is to go out, to see great exhibitions or collections in the museums.

NY ARTS: Donald Kuspit recently titled his book, “Art is Dead.” What is your response to the statement?

AVM: He means that commercialism and cynicism are killing the spirit in art and he is right.

NY ARTS: Who are five artists that inform/inspire your work?

AVM: John Constable, Joseph Turner, Magdalena Abakanowicz, Anselm Kiefer, Polly Apfelbaum.

NY ARTS: What are some of your favorite exhibitions this year?

AVM: Marc Quinn at Mary Boone Gallery, Ana Mendieta in Hirshhorn Museum, Tom Shaw in Cincinnati.

NY ARTS: Please complete the statement, _I am most _______ when I ______.

AVM: I am most happy when I know what my next two projects will be and how and where I can realize them and present them.

NY Arts Magazine, March/April, 2005