CM: When Maria Matala graduated from Pierce College in 1976 she stayed in touch through the Alumni Association. Hence she took part in the College's alumni art exhibitions, the first one curated by Vicky Syrigos at the House of Cyprus in 1995, and then by Dora Iliopoulou-Rogan at the College's Cultural Center in 2005.
Moved by the prospect of exhibiting at the College's new Cultural Center in Athens' historic area of Plaka, known as 'Attica Tradition Educational Foundation', Matala decided to visit the space, and she was impressed it was occupied by a stunning neoclassical building that was renovated in the best possible way. Serving since many years as manager of buildings owned by the French Republic in Greece, most of which are traditional, her painting manifested a love for the neoclassical architecture, such as the painting she made of the 'Villa France' (former French Institute) of Piraeus or the 'Auberge de France' of Rhodes. Thus she produced a series of paintings on the theme of neoclassical buildings, like the present work.
Wishing to represent the Attica Tradition Educational Foundation, its spirit was imprinted onto the painting eloquently and naturally. Owing to the heavy workload of her profession, Matala's bigger part of her paintings are been worked mostly from photographs. As the building is placed on a corner, the painter took photographs from both its facades and combined into the same composition onto her painting. It was not in her intention to produce a work of photographic realism. Being fond of artistic playfulness, the art of Matala displays a childishness, which is always characterized by surprise. She did not use any straight lines. The building was reproduced organically like a living organism, and this quality endowed her painting with the beauty and charm it displays.
First of all the building proved its endurance through the passing of time. Furthermore it displays the mannerism of a building made of stone. Its marble elements - podium, jambs and brackets - develop a special relationship with the light. The marble attracts the light normally as illuminated material, but it also emits its aura, which originates in its special nature. As a matter of fact, Matala believes that buildings on which the stonework is visible express a sacred grandeur, which has everything to do with the character and quality of the people who lived in them. There is a dialectic relationship between such building and their residents.
Characteristic throughout the painting is the prevalence of the gold color. The first time Matala was impressed by gold was in the church, for the way it is used on religious orthodox icons. Matala used gold to accentuate the elements of the building that give it its character, and it is as if the inside comes out. The blending of colors with the light given by the gold, bring out mysticism that appeals to the viewer's subconscious and endows the work with a timeless quality. The application of gold obliged her to work quickly, yet the painting took months to finish.
Matala feels that the Attica Tradition Educational Foundation is the most cheerful work in the series of buildings she painted. She saw this painting as a feast and said "it has something of our school's joyful official American song, "Hail Alma Mater" (Hail Nurturing Mother). The sky is merry, full of fireworks, as if the national celebration of American Independence Day, on the 4th of July took place in the center of Plaka. She represents the American way to say welcome in the heart of Athens. Herewith are combined many hours of the day. She intended the painting to capture life, which is all-inclusive - the days and the nights, all the seasons, and the classical timelessness. She wished to establish a direct dialog between the artist and the viewer with the building. She wanted to give the viewer the liberty to see in the painting that which one loves and longs for. This is the quality that Nico Hadjikyriaco-Ghika discerned when he saw her work in 1992. He had told her characteristically: "you open a dialog with the spectator by making him your accomplice". Matala's Attica Tradition Educational Foundation represents the building's elusive psyche, whose manifestation calls to be evoked by the viewer.