Sound Bites

NY Arts Magazine, May/June 2005

“Anna VanMatre captures a prominent struggle, that of nature and man’s destructive interference with it. Drawing with pencil on paper, she depicts rising smoke and gases, voluminous plumes of steam and radioactive dust. The smoke rises as though exhaust fumes from industrial nuclear reactors: filled with various contaminants and air-borne poisons. VanMatre’s preoccupation with the threat of salient dangers hanging in the air is the focus of her paintings. The titles of her works reflect this sentiment: NO, Stop, Cloudy Landscape, Stormy Times, Generation and Regeneration…But for me, Anna VanMatre’s creativity is about the never-ending struggle between the forces of darkness and light: a story of the clash between Good and Evil in the modern world, and in ourselves. Interestingly, the saturated climates of gloomy uneasiness in her art are reminiscent of Dostoyevsky’s works–in his dark appreciation for the depths of the human soul. There is a stark similarity in both artists’ experience of the world: one’s expression is through pen, and the other with graphite.

In describing such gloom, Anna VanMatre also highlights the fundamental part played by light in her art. This light allows us to see space: the light has an almost mystical presence. It is a symbol of hope, a symbol leading us out of the gloom and into the light. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, it is iconic of a potential renaissance towards a better life–away from silent destruction and pollution. It is this Hope upon which the whole of VanMatre’s creativity is built.” — Temida Stankiewicz-Podhorecka, from “Anna VanMatre: Metaphorical Dimension”

“Anna VanMatre paints the majority of her artworks with graphite, spreading it out using various tools, over special synthetic paper. The paintings, usually of gigantic sizes (often reaching 12 feet) are constructed on a huge Plexiglass panel, which lies on her studio floor. Anna VanMatre’s paintings are mainly black and white with only hints of pastel color appearing in selected areas, creating drama in this contrast.

The hours before noon is the time when VanMatre’s creative passion expresses itself most intensively–it is the time when her studio gets the perfect lighting, peace and atmosphere. The ambience is often complemented by the music VanMatre plays on the stereo in her studio. ‘When I work, I especially like to listen to Beethoven, Mozart, Liszt, and Chopin, and of course jazz,’–says the artist–‘I believe that there is a unique relationship between my work and the music.’ The relationship between VanMatre’s artistic soul and music is expected as her husband, Rick VanMatre, is a well know musician, a jazz saxophonist: ‘When he plays saxophone, clarinet or flute, Rick’s music permeates the walls of our house into my art studio and that without a doubt inspires my new creations,’ says Anna.” — Jerzy Barankiewicz and Nowy Dziennik from “Graphite Passions of Anna VanMatre”

“Anna VanMatre’s gigantic, monumental drawings, create a sense of profound bleakness., which she depicts with her use of dark grays and pockets of white on the paper. This movement of thick smoke and heavy clouds is ever-evolving into new shapes; it cannot be contained or controlled. VanMatre draws dramatic scenes of hurricane-weathered clouds, dust nebulae, which are seldom calm. Her compositions always relate to the expansive and theatrical events of the sky; they recreate the beautiful and the disasterous aspects of both life and the death in the Earth’s biosphere. People busy with their daily routines pay no attention to it; it takes a disaster for us to look up at the sky and realize how misguided our state of calm actually is. These drawings are nature-inspired and are symbolic stories of the struggle between Dark and Light. Into these wreathing, dynamic forms, VanMatre occasionally introduces a tiny fragment of realistic landscape, functioning as a point of reference for the picture’s struggling elements. Sometimes, a streak of rain is interrupted by a light tear in the paper, as though emphasizing the complicated inter-relations between realities inside and outside the picture.” Wieslawa Wierzchowska, Art Critic

“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,” the viewer sees the world in its ultimate destruction, from which nothing has been saved and all is consumed by flames (the only element of color) and masses of dark-grey smoke-clouds… Anna sees the world as a theatrical structure with many drapes, behind which truth is hidden… Her works are mainly in black and white and only rarely does she apply color–rather to emphasize the shades of black and white than to present the color itself. The less color used, the stronger its place among the darkness of the whole composition.” — Czeslaw Karkowski, Art Critic.

NY Arts Magazine, May/June, 2005