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Diplomat exhibits watercolours

Motivated by the aim of giving Austrians "the idea that Slovakia is a country worth seeing more of," Austrian Ambassador to Slovakia Gabriele Matzner has painted over 60 water-colours of Slovak scenes, a selection of which is currently being exhibited at the Slovak Institute in Vienna. A desire to show contrast, especially where there is structure, is evident throughout the collection of landscapes, castles, churches, and dwellings, both modest and grand.
At the packed opening of the exhibition on March 17, guests were entertained by the Ambassador's distinguished friends from the world of arts. A heartfelt and amusing opening speech was given by the popular Austrian actor, Fritz Muliar, followed by three romantic songs from Slovak opera singer Peter Dvorský.


This watercolour of Bratislavský hrad by Matzner is one of several paintings on display at the Slovak Institute in Vienna until April 11.
photo: Courtesy Gabriele Matzner

Motivated by the aim of giving Austrians "the idea that Slovakia is a country worth seeing more of," Austrian Ambassador to Slovakia Gabriele Matzner has painted over 60 water-colours of Slovak scenes, a selection of which is currently being exhibited at the Slovak Institute in Vienna. A desire to show contrast, especially where there is structure, is evident throughout the collection of landscapes, castles, churches, and dwellings, both modest and grand.

At the packed opening of the exhibition on March 17, guests were entertained by the Ambassador's distinguished friends from the world of arts. A heartfelt and amusing opening speech was given by the popular Austrian actor, Fritz Muliar, followed by three romantic songs from Slovak opera singer Peter Dvorský.

Having had little formal education in painting, Ambassador Matzner considers herself to be an amateur, although her affinity for creativity surfaced at an early age. Inspired by family members, some of whom painted professionally, she satisfied her childish instincts by drawing caricatures of her teachers as a school girl. Later, while studying law at university, she found time to work and mix with students from the art faculty.

Nowadays her favourite medium is water-colour. Many of her Slovak paintings were the result of a four-week holiday she took travelling the country last year. Keeping a keen eye out for strong shadows, she says she prefers to work in the morning or evening. When painting buildings, she prefers states of dilapidation over perfection.

Matzner works quickly, launching straight into colour without a pencil sketch. Her paintings are almost completed at the site and then taken home where she adds colour, sharpens the contrasts and works on detail. Like most artists, she is never entirely satisfied with her work, claiming that her paintings are less dramatic and more peaceful than intended. She thinks this must reflect something about her character.

Past postings have inspired her to paint New York and Berlin as well as her native Austria. When the Berlin wall came down, she felt that "Berlin was going through a phase of exploding dynamism," and that she was "retaining a world which was going to disappear." A series of paintings of the Wall ranging from its intact state to its complete destruction demonstrate to her a "nakedness... reflecting a wound in the city landscape."

Matzner said that to be a good diplomat, one needs extensive knowledge not only of their own country but also of the host country, and believes that "painting is one way of understanding where you are." She feels a "need to make Austrians think more about their neighbours and to remove barriers in their minds originating from [Slovakia's] communist past." Through her "egoistically-motivated" hobby, she hopes to achieve this aim.

Slovak Institute, Wipplingerstrasse 24-26 in the Vienna First District. Open: Mon-Fri from 9:00-17:00. Exhibition runs till April11. Admission free.

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