Sat | Aug 18, 2018

Jamaican warmth meets European panache

Published:Sunday | October 2, 2016 | 12:00 AM
Alexandria Berninger
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Self Portrait
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Amitabh Sharma


Barbara Matthews von Enger is a person of few words - her communication is concise, to the point, and precise, traits that are reflected in the works of this Jamaica-born painter, sculptor, and installation artist.

Matthews von Enger's art is in the spotlight on the runways of haute couture, a confluence of the Caribbean warmth with the flamboyance of the sashaying statements - a front-row regular in fashion culture, as she describes it.

"I am interested in cultures, peoples, and the human condition," Matthews von Enger said. "This is why I travel."

Having lived in more than eight countries, her artistic and creative journey, she said, made her come back to the land of the abundant brew of malted barley and Oktoberfest.

"I began learning German at school in Jamaica, then continued and furthered it in London," she said. "The positive part of the culture and the inspiration of Europe and the world made Germany my home."

Matthews von Enger has an eclectic mix of specialisations under her belt - she studied painting, drawing, sculpture, and modern languages.

After graduating, she worked at the Guggenheim Museum in Berlin and several other art institutions in Europe.

But her mind, she said, gravitated to infusing creativity and artistic nuances in fashion, which eventually led to a collaboration with three of the world's top fashion houses, as she jet-setting between the fashion capitals of the world, Paris and Milan and Berlin.

In 2010, Matthews von Enger created Haute Couture Invitation Cards, which she describes as a form of canvas for her art; a medium, in which she has become a pioneer.

The appreciation for her creation, she said, comes from the freedom of expression.

"It is the pleasure and freedom to create that which I love without thinking about what the public thinks," she said. "And this freedom is my high point."

Matthews von Enger, said her media for creative expressions vary from paper, wood, cement, zinc, leather, resin, textile, glass, aluminium or a combination of each, which she uses to create statement pieces.

Her artistic journey, Matthews von Enger describes as a people's journey. "A journey is always a tricky thing to describe because it is always moving and changing and uprooting itself," she said. "But I would say the journey is collecting inspiration and being inspired by the world around me."

As for her inspiration, her flight of imagination takes off from the cobbled stoned paths to the rustic demeanour of the land of her birth. "Jamaican dancehall music inspires me," she said, adding that inspiration in all in manifestations is funny ... yet magical.

"It is captivating," she said. "Love inspires me; fashion inspires me; the brutality of life inspires me, passion inspires me; family inspires me."

Challenges of life, according to Matthew von Enger, become inspirations too; so is spirituality.

"The gravity of life is my driving force; it lives in my gut," she said. "I call it my unruly internal editor, and to be able to incorporate all this into art is the reason I live."

Matthews von Enger, who has embraced numerous red carpets in the haute couture world and is one of the well-known faces in that industry, said she likes to be grounded on terra firma much.

"I would like to be connected to reality," she said.

This Jamaica-born artist, living life under the arc lights, in the fast-paced world of fashion, has some grounded thought processes too. "If I were not an artist, I would have been a mother," she said; and the next stop in the journey of life?

"Holidays," she said.