In her vividly rendered oil paintings, Maribel Matthews depicts diverse environments, from the historic canals of Venice to playfully imagined landscapes. What binds her oeuvre is a lush attention to color and careful depiction of light. These elements lend a palpable drama to the works, which often hint mysteriously to narratives just out of frame.
In her works focusing primarily on Venetian landscapes and Carnival culture, Matthews thoughtfully depicts dramatic, elaborate costumes and peaceful visions of the city’s historic water canals. Behind the Mask depicts two figures in full masquerade regalia. Their porcelain masks contrast with the rich silk of their costumes, creating a luscious display of texture. Indeed, Matthews’s careful attention to texture and materiality pays homage to the Italian Old Masters, and her works highlight the beauty inherent in cultural memory and how traditions are inscribed in built environments. The identity and social status of the figures obscured, Matthews pictures the drama imbued in this theatrical display as lively today as it was in the 11th century.
Though she focuses on a specific depiction of time and place in her Venice paintings, Matthews is equally intrigued by universal scenes—landscapes, still lifes, and portraits that seem to transcend all notions of time and place. In Autumn, Matthews takes a more playful tone, rendering a highly stylized tree branch in bright magenta and lime green. The background is a dazzling swirl of rich blue against which untamed limbs twist and curl. The painting is not a truthful representation, but rather a fantastic scene in Technicolor, as if the familiar seeming tree is actually a portal to a secret world. Veering between the specific and the timeless, the personal and the universal, Matthews’s paintings are luscious scenes filled with tension and pointing to drama that’s just beyond view.