Colors erupt in a riotous celebration: Everywhere, there seems to be blues, greens, yellows and reds. There is an undeniable warm tropical feel to this lively new body of work from Maria Anghelache, which at first appears to be a bit of a stretch for an artist who lives in Vermont. Not at all, maintains the painter, whose exhibition of tropical-inspired paintings just closed at the City Hall Gallery in Burlington, Vermont. She credits living in Vermont for the vibrant explosive work that she is currently doing.
"I started making these works at around this time last year, towards the end of August," the artist told me. "In Vermont, winter is so long and so cold. For months upon months, all there is, is snow upon the ground and the days are short and dark. Last year as winter started its approach I began longing for hot tropical places, and this longing resulted in these brightly colored paintings."
In these paintings the viewer is seduced by color and texture. Yet these are quizzically contradictory works. On the one hand, there is a tactile quality to the paintings and you almost want to reach out and touch them. (For the life of me, I cannot get the image of reaching for a ripe fruit out of my head, when looking at these paintings.) On the other hand, however, there is a sense of being enveloped by her paintings. But one can never be fully enveloped or embraced by Anghelache's work because there is something both incandescent and ephemeral about it. I often have the sense when looking at her paintings that I am chasing after rainbows!
In keeping with the tropical theme, flowers, butterflies, seagrass and other natural and organic forms abound and take life and flight in these new works. Anghelache sees the work that she does as essentially a dialogue with nature. The artist maintains that not only is she in love with nature and the natural world, but, for her, the natural world is like multiple strands of conversations all going on at the same time, in which "natural elements emerge like multiple ideas going in multiple directions."
Painting and art have always been a way of life for Maria Anghelache. She remembers that she became interested in colors as a 4-year-old living just outside Bucharest, Romania. Luckily for her, her parents noted her strong interest in colors and painting and enrolled her in an afterschool program dedicated to the visual arts. From there she would attend a specialized art high school, then a year of design school (where she concentrated on display design), followed by three years of study at the Institute of Art in Bucharest.
Anghelache was making quite a name for herself in Bucharest, as a designer and a visual artist, but always there was the longing for more, and so, in 1995, she and her family moved to the United States and settled in Vermont. "What I didn't count on [was] that in the United States I would have to start my art career all over again, doing a bachelor's degree at Johnson State College in Vermont, before going on to do my master's degree at New York University," she said.
But art was the only thing that she truly and instinctively wanted to do, so she stuck by her passion.
A major influence has been the work of the artist George Braque, particularly his use of abstraction. This fascination with abstraction carries over into her own work, and she classifies herself as mainly an abstract painter. In her work she seems to be in the process of both building up and breaking down natural elements into their constituent parts. My reading of her work is that she is someone not only endlessly obsessed with nature, but also trying to get to the essence of nature. As the artist herself maintains: "I want to make visible the intangible."
It is as if she seeks to get to the very molecules that make up the things that she paints. There also seems to be a preoccupation with networks in her work. She acknowledges as much. "For years, as I worked to gain my footing in America and rebuild my life as an artist and as a designer, I worked for a large computer company. The networks that go into making a computer endlessly fascinate me, and I think some of that fascination can be seen in my paintings about nature, as well. One thing always seems to be connecting to another, in my work."
Her works over the years have gotten steadily larger. From works on paper Maria Anghelache has moved on to working on canvas -- the works in her most recent show are 30x40 inches. "And I want to get larger than that," she informs. "I want to do double the size of the works that I am currently doing. In a sense" -- here, she pauses before continuing --"In a sense I want to make life-sized works so that I can walk into my paintings. That is where my work is going these days, in the direction of my actual body, and my work becoming one with nature."
Until next time.