Q&A with artist Danuta Matysik, inspired by her travels, as well as the music and culture of the American South

"Music is very powerful in creating good or bad mood and I personally like to avoid any  loud and aggressive sounds. Instead I tend to choose easy, calming music which encourages contemplation."

Danuta Matysik: The Colors of Blues

“Pictures from the Road. People and Places” titled the project of Polish artist Danuta Matysik, will be presented as an art exhibition in the hall of Scandic Hell hotel in Hell, Norway, during the European Blues Challenge in Hell 2018 produced by the European Blues Union, at 15-17 March, 2018. “PICTURES FROM THE ROAD. PEOPLE AND PLACES” showcases paintings by Danuta, inspired by her travels, as well as the music & culture of the American South.

 Danuta Matysik / PHOTO © Tomek Pienicki

Danuta Matysik treats her paintings as a form of preserving memories from her travels and encounters with far-away cultures. The project is a collection of paintings celebrating the American South, its places, people, and their music: The Blues. Together with her husband Andrzej, Danuta (or Dana) run a booking and publishing agency who publishes the Polish blues magazine, “Twoj Blues” (Keeping the Blues Alive Award receipient), to which she contributes both as a writer, as well as an artist. Danuta Matysik talks about her art, the Blues and her experience in the land of the Blues.

Interview by Michael Limnios

What characterize your artwork philosophy?

I’m not sure I have developed something so serious as philosophy as I tend to act on an impulse. I take a lot of photographs, but only some make me want to turn them into paintings. It must have something to do with the composition of the scene, with the light and colors or maybe with a story that I may guess is hidden behind what is seen on the surface.

What has been the relationship: music & visual art in your life?

They are the best things that we can enjoy in life and they certainly go together well. I believe that while looking at a work of art we instantly feel what kind of music would make good background for it. On the other hand, if we are truly relaxed while listening to music, it is certain to evoke some pictures either connected to our past experiences or some entirely new visions.

How does music affect your mood and inspiration?

Music is very powerful in creating good or bad mood and I personally like to avoid any  loud and aggressive sounds. Instead I tend to choose easy, calming music which encourages contemplation.

"Looking for the subjects of my pictures, I was after things that were strongly connected with the land, the people and their music. And they didn’t have to be beautiful, but characteristic and different from those things that surrounded me in my daily life. I go searching for things that bring me new experiences that I cherish while painting and later, each time I look at the ready picture." ARTWORK © Dana Art

How started the thought of "Pictures on the Road" project?

I have always been very fond of travelling and I enjoy many different things I come across during my trips. It is so easy now, that everybody has a camera in their telephones, to take hundreds of pictures. I’m no exception, but on returning home I love to go through them and pick the favorite ones. Sometimes I like some of them so much that I try to capture the nice memories connected with them for a longer while by turning them into paintings.

What experiences have triggered your ideas most frequently?

There are many things that draw my attention and now, looking back I see that those interests were coming in waves: at some point I used to paint many landscapes with bridges - those fascinating structures connecting people and places; then there came a time for depicting mysterious old olive trees, sea and harbors with boats ready to set off in search of adventures, magnificent medieval cathedrals and castles and of course also themes connected with my great passion - music.

How has the Blues music and culture influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

It was exciting to be able to see the places in which the music was created. It has been a long process, and I’m grateful I could learn a lot about the history but also meet the people who live it today. I come from a very different background so I think I am very sensitive to everything which is important in blues and it was my great joy to focus my attention on those things while painting.

What touched (emotionally) you from your US trips?

Looking for the subjects of my pictures, I was after things that were strongly connected with the land, the people and their music. And they didn’t have to be beautiful, but characteristic and different from those things that surrounded me in my daily life. I go searching for things that bring me new experiences that I cherish while painting and later, each time I look at the ready picture.

Which meetings/acquaintances have been the most important experiences for you?

In Mississippi, Louisiana and also other southern states we went to many great shows during numerous festivals, but I also enjoyed brief meetings with musicians playing in the street or even casual talks with other tourists we met in clubs over a drink who were interested in the same music. All this left a nice feeling that I had a chance of experiencing something extraordinary.

"I’m ready to accept whatever the future has in store for me." ARTWORK © Danuta Matysik

What has made you laugh?

I may now laugh at it, but years ago, when we didn’t even anticipate driving with GPS, it was sometimes quite a challenge to find all the places connected with the history of blues we felt we must see like a long-forgotten grave of some bluesman from the past or a shaky hut in the middle of nowhere under the ruthless southern sun. But at the same time these are also our best memories from those travels.

What do you miss most nowadays from the blues of past?

I do not have too many wistful reflections as I can find the vital elements that made the music so powerful in the past in even very up to date productions that we are familiar with nowadays.

What are your hopes and fears for the future?

I’m ready to accept whatever the future has in store for me.

If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

I definitely have no ambition of introducing any spectacular changes. With years I have learnt that it is enough fun to see what life brings my way and I’ll consider myself lucky if I can cope with the challenges I‘ll have to face.

Make an account of the case of the blues in Poland. Which is the most interesting period in local blues scene?

That’s a difficult task, because I either listen to music because I like it, or give up. This is why I find it hard to compare bands, styles or musicians, not to mention to evaluate them. I think I’m not judge mental enough.

"They are the best things that we can enjoy in life and they certainly go together well. I believe that while looking at a work of art we instantly feel what kind of music would make good background for it. On the other hand, if we are truly relaxed while listening to music, it is certain to evoke some pictures either connected to our past experiences or some entirely new visions." (ARTWORK © Danuta Matysik)

Do you have a dream project you'd most like to accomplish?

I have two beautiful daughters and I wish that one day I can manage to paint their pictures so well that they will approve. So far, all my trials in this measure fell short of their expectations.

What projects are you working on at the moment?

From my most recent trip to the Middle East I’ve brought many pictures and at present I am striving to reduce their number so that I can possibly paint a few pictures that would capture the magic of the moments I spent there.

Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really want to go for a whole day?

As a schoolgirl I sometimes thought how exciting it could have been to experience the life of une famme fatale in the fin de siècle era, or some medieval queen successfully plotting against her enemies in a stone castle, but how can I be sure if I were taken back in this time machine that I wouldn’t be thrown into poverty, slavery or other misfortunes… That’s why I now cannot help thinking that we should be grateful for living in our comfortable era with the possibilities of choosing the life we want, modern health care, educational opportunities and technological devices at our disposal. I never take them for granted which makes me satisfied with what I have here and now.

But, on second thoughts, if this extraordinary machine can move me in time forward, I would love to spend a day (or even longer) with my grandchildren.

PHOTO: Danuta Matysik with her daughters, Zosia and Ewa

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