1st - 29th June 2018
Curated by NORBERT FRANCIS ATTARD
Text by ISAAC AZZOPARDI
Valletta Contemporary presents here&now, a collective of emerging Maltese artists. This show is conceived to showcase and promote Maltese emerging artists, who are pushing contemporary art discourse in Malta in new directions.
Nine Maltese artists make up the divergent cast of voices coming together for here&now; their work has something to say about our contemporary lives in these uncertain times. The title of this exhibition attests to a ‘place and time’—the present; both to be in a particular place and to exist or occur now. It is a paradox, because it’s definition implies a consistency of ‘being’, whereas in reality ‘being’ is constantly in flux, in both time and space.
This becomes evident in the Maltese socio-political and cultural landscape from where these nine artists are emerging—as is Valletta Contemporary itself. It is this landscape that connect all the artists; it is the national space they inhabit, or have inhabited, that ties them together. What they share in terms of origin testifies to the importance of their voices because the common threads between them claims them and their work, sometimes in ambiguous and subtle ways.
Can the origin of these artists affect their voice? The ‘Maltese’ vein could run through these artists work unhindered and exposed, or subdued and deeply earthed, but it is there for anyone to find. What we can be sure of is that by being defined as contemporary Maltese artists, they are inadvertently also defining contemporary art in Malta, and putting their names in that definition.
Origins are as important as they are formative; people are shaped, in part or parts, by the environment they grow up in, and artists are no different. One may find lines and patterns of connection between the art and the artist’s habitat—associations that are in turn informed by the viewer’s knowledge and familiarity with this habitat, as sometimes it is also their own.
Some connections are evident: Ryan Falzon’s work launches itself bodily into the icons and the vernacular visual language of Maltese society. What we see in his work is a reflection of where the artist emerges from, but also a cultural mirror for the viewer to connect to. His work offers a constant evaluation and critical commentary of the local cultural consciousness.
On the other hand is Patrick Mifsud, whose work is politically opaque and ambiguous in its setting. Nonetheless its own sense of abstraction lends it ample room for subjective appropriation: you can easily make it your own, to relate it to your habitat. It also fits easily in the bellicose national discourse of space and contested urbanities, between an ideal nostalgia and defined progress.
here&now will encompass themes from political commentary, to evaluations of space; from playful dismantling of intuitive processes to sex. There is queer art, digital art, minimalist art, spatialism, protest art, identity politics and neurology. It is a fitting array for a country going through so many changes.
Malta’s socio-political, cultural and actual landscapes are going through considerable transformation. It is more than evident in the news, the stories or simply in living everyday life. In the din of our little island, amplified by social media and news portals, people grumble to the sway of the media.
It can feel overwhelming, frustrating and dismaying, and yet it all seems to wash over us; we have grown accustomed to living in a progressively urbanised space, constantly in flux, as internationalised as our consumeristic diet, as umbilical as close family.
And yet, there is a sneaking feeling that all this only adds layers to what is already there: nothing has actually changed, there’s only more variety, more dimensions to what Malta ‘is’. Does this mean it is more diverse, open- minded, forward thinking and outlooking or simply more contested, diluted and more lost in translation?
Within all this, contemporary art has started to stumble upright. It is now in these interesting times that we should look forward to join the national dialogues, to address the issues and challenge the status quo. It is as ripe as ever for contemporary art to become an indelible part of these narratives and assert itself as a valuable and critical voice in the national discourse.
— Kane Cali (b.1983) is an RCA graduate, specialising in glass and ceramics. Based in Valletta, Malta, his studio practice explores the relationship between physical manifestation and technology, through cutting-edge technology, 3D scanning and software, which are rendered in glass and ceramics.
Cali’s work exists at the heart of a contemporary dilemma: where are we and who are we now in this virtual era? In a time when Big Data is dominating the world, and our virtual selves are steadily collating into permanence, these ‘avatars’ are becoming as much present and real as our flesh-and-blood selves.
While he is mostly interested in the aesthetic possibilities data collection and Big Data can lead to, it is undeniable that his work significantly touches on themes of identity and identity politics. For Cali, there is an overlooked freedom in our virtual identity, in that it is not biologically bound—it can be anything, change anytime and be free from material constraints.
At the heart of his practice is an undeniable love for process, and subtly he has created a balance between new technology and old, that is redefining in its application. Using cutting edge 3D scanning techniques rendered through software that result in 3D printed objects, are then recast into ‘old material’—glass, crystal and ceramics.
It is this process that creates the rich layers of juxtaposition of the render against the materiality, of the virtual against the tangible. In Cali’s work there is an undeniable sincerity and an inescapable ‘virtuality’.
In this show, Kane Cali will be exhibiting a selection of prints from his latest body of work Human_Construct, from his 2016 works on paper Lines in Sequence.
— Ryan Falzon (b. 1988) is an MCAST graduate in Fine Arts. Based in Żurrieq, Malta, his studio practice revolves around the Maltese character and political milieu. His work is self-described as that of a resistance activist who engages in commentary and criticism of the socio-political landscape of Malta.
Through the often naive and violent aesthetic of his paintings and prints, Falzon pries apart the Maltese character, as if piece by piece. His work is laden with references and icons and imagery from the local shared cultural consciousness that many are familiar with. The work is essentially ironic: the naivety and violence, from Falzon’s punk roots, bring out the nostalgia and kitsch of the contemporary Maltese consciousness while the political narrative is that of progress and ‘looking forward’.
For Falzon, nostalgia is an issue of national proportions; as the political discourse embraces progress, people are still keen to embrace the quaint, idyllic and scenic Malta of the postcard. This creates a tug-of-war that leaves vacuums of inconsistencies: development, gentrification and immigration are grumbled on but never dealt with, because they do not exist in a meaningful way in the national socio-political discourse.
Moreover, a preoccupation surfaces above the others: is Art powerful enough to change things or simply a medium to someone’s political agenda? In the expectantly seismic year of Valletta 2018, is Art really the main agenda, or is it secondary to something else?
Subtly, the work talks about the Maltese identity at a deeper level and exposes the myriad Maltese identities that, although sometimes truculent and conflicted, co-exist on this small island. Furthermore, despite it’s commentary and critique, Falzon’s work is reminder of the wealth of Maltese cultural and socio-political landscape, and the undeniable wealth rip for exploration by artists.
Ryan Falzon will be exhibiting a new series Nostalgia is Amnesia, exploring themes of nostalgia, politics and the role of art in contemporary Malta.
— Maxine Attard (b. 1986) is a University of Brighton graduate, with an MA in Fine Arts, and is based is Gozo. Her studio practice revolves around ritual and repetition, and are as much about introspection and self-analysis as they are about form and composition.
One could look at Attard’s work as many things: maps, networks, texture, terrain or simply compositions of form and material. There is an undeniable elegance in her work, but also a calm silence where you easily get lost tracing the lines and the forms.
For the artist, her practice is a ‘safe space’; a retreat from the chaos of the world, especially the chaotic, boisterous nature of the Maltese culture. This offers a spiritual dimension to the work, a minimalist nature that extends to the viewer’s perception.
Through the ritualistic approach of repetitive gestures, Attard seeks to attain a perfection that is unattainable: the mark can never be ‘perfect’. However, this unattainability is what makes her work interesting: it makes for the viewer a compelling study, as he or she scans this compositions, lines and forms to seek out, subconsciously, for the very perfection that Attard seeks in making those figurative elements. But that perfection can never be found, and so the viewer searches on.
The material itself opens another door for interpretation, even if the material is of no symbolic, metaphoric or allusory consequence to the artist. And yet, the materials used in her work, do factor into a certain character, into certain choices made by the artist, however inconsequent they may seem.
In this show Maxine Attard will exhibiting her series Untitled (work on paper 1-7/18) from 2018 and two pieces Untitled (jacket collected from a beach in Malta, possibly belonging to a refugee) and Untitled (photographs of faces of people found on the internet, black indian ink wash) from 2016.
— Aaron Bezzina (b.1991) is an MFA graduate in Digital Arts at University of Malta. His practice revolves around ambiguous, somber and raw interpretations of sculptural in-between objects that defy expectations of function and belief. Since graduating, he has exhibited steadily both in Malta and overseas, including the Venice Biennale.
Bezzina’s work is very hard to define. His enigmatic oeuvre can be regarded as a fascination with the sculptural, which he explores form different facets. From his various constructed apparatus to his textual work, they all seem to try to caricature the very idea of the function of the sculptural, and by extension, art itself.
The raw aesthetic of his contraptions have a somber quality and often relate to a certain violence—some of Bezzina’s devices can be associated with torture devices and infer a certain violence, worked in the viewer’s mind. And yet, none of these devices actually ‘function’: as serious as his work looks, there is, underneath, a certain playfulness.
An important facet of his work is the important role of the viewer. Bezzina’s work suggests a function, which the viewer carries out in their imagination. The work is ‘completed’ by the viewer’s questioning and their puzzling out the objects’ state and function. Much like a puzzle, its counter-intuitive nature: there is a quality of play in his work that makes for a compelling experience.
The Untitled (black paintings), Bezzina’s latest work delves into his fascination of the sculptural through painting. Much like the Spatialists, these paintings—‘windows into blackness’—strive to ‘open up’ a space beyond the flat surface of the canvas. Here, again, is a puzzle for the viewer to complete; the three-dimensional space ‘beyond’ the canvas is only suggested as projection, existing only in the mind.
For this show, Aaron Bezzina will be exhibiting his Untitled (black paintings), the latest body of work.
— Matthew Attard (b. 1987) is an Digital Arts MA by research graduate, based in Malta. His interest in the body and the visual saturation in which it exists in the virtual world, led his practice to explore the re-invention of recognising the body. With an active interest in the neurological role of the viewer’s ability of recognition, his sculptural work engages the cerebral through manipulating both the physical and the subject’s context.
Everyday life is saturated with pictures of ourselves, from social media to advertising, we are bombarded with images of people. Snapping for a selfie or modelling for an advert: poses are everywhere and we have come to take them for granted. After thousand of years of civilised existence, all we are truly fascinated and interested in is ourselves.
Attard’s practice delves into this fascination with the body. While poses and their contexts tell a thousand stories, he understands our desensitisation to these pictures. His practice strives to re-invent the relationship between viewer and the human figure, by re-contextualising the pose.
While, his sculptural interventions look simple, the work functions on the cerebral level—Attard’s wire sculptures are an experience of understanding sight and familiarity. By utilising the mechanisms of drawing, the existent line is moulded into shape by the artist, and interacted with and interpreted freely by the viewer.
Attard will be showcasing three sculptures made especially for this show.
— Matyou Galea (b.1986), is a PhD candidate in Digital Arts at the University of Malta, and is based in Malta. A fascination with the mechanical and sound fed into his practice, where he strives to connect the visual, the sonic and the object to create sculptural works, or as he calls them ’structures’.
Through his practice Galea explores man’s ongoing fascination of manifesting ideas or their consciousness into tangible reality. His work attempts to recreate just that, through his own ‘tangible realities’—sculpture, installation or spatial interventions.
‘Structures’ are an important aspect of the work, because it informs how Galea sees his practice. When a structure is created, it is brought to ‘life’: a structure functions through the connections it creates and maintains. Content is subjective and therefore not intrinsic to the structure—think of a music composition which has a structure, and yet its content can be interpreted (played) in various ways.
The installation or spatial intervention planned for this show is a physical model of ‘noise’; it embodies the mathematical theory of communication. Galea wants to unravel the process of viewing things, which today happens predominantly through a screen—we don’t see the actual object.
By deconstructing viewing, Galea is creating a caricature of reality itself. The structure for reality exists, but is painted on by subjectivity. In today’s digital world, a lot of reality is ‘double-glazed’, layered over by our subjectivity and the distance imposed by the screen and ‘virtuality’.
Galea will also be presenting (Re) Diffusion (of ideals through agents of mass distraction), an interactive sculpture from 2017.
— Patrick Mifsud (b.1984) is an MA in Fine Arts graduate at the University of the Arts London (Wimbledon College of Arts), and he is now based in London. By intersecting architecture into his work, he creates symbiotic relationships between landscape and site specificity. Space, and our relationship with it, is at the heart of his work, both sculptural and two dimensional.
Definitions of space are at the heart of everyday life: from the areas within a room, to the rooms within a house and the space in between the houses and beyond. From the intimate to the national, the concept of space is crucial and multi-layered in its consequence. In Malta, space is an even more consequential topic.
And so Mifsud’s drawing work can be interpreted on many levels. Its site specificity does not restrain the scope; the work allows for ambiguity to exist ‘beyond’.
Mifsud’s primary work in sculpture and installation—where architecture, site specificity and spatial intervention meet—is where he truly shines. His pieces become definitive of the space they inhabit, becoming an extension of their site, or delineate a new space within it.
A series of site-specific drawings on panel, Insular Spaces (VC) I-VIII from 2018, will be presented for this show, along with Intersecting Spaces I & II, from 2017.
— Roxman Gatt (b.1989) is an MA graduate from the Royal College of Art, London, where she is also based. Her work is defined by her multi-media approach and the glitchy, colourful and ambiguity of the subject matter. While using her persona in her practice, she explores sexuality, identity, gender and consumption.
The kitschy, uncool of the underground revival of the eighties’ colours and the nineties’ early internet age permeates Gatt’s work. It is nostalgia for the millennial generation, fodder for reevaluating our identity. The work speaks of exploration of the self through cultural spheres of pop, internet and the virtual.
It only takes a visit to her website to understand this. Her vast multi-media library of works is sectioned in file extensions. Most of the work here is glaring in colour and subject matter, striking in its execution and upfront about its origins
Yet, for all the glaring internet kitsch, much is bound to the body. From feminism to queer, consumerist fetish to sexual consumerism, Gatt’s work explores a niche of body politics, following her body’s relation to the internet gaze. Indeed, she considers the internet as a space in which she lives, where one can be active without actually moving.
This state of both—being physically alone but virtually not—is an interesting space, for what seems to be a balancing act by the artist to find a compromise between the two. In fact, for Gatt there is also a dimension of self-expression and healing in her work, using it to funnel suppressed emotions: her persona itself becomes a medium for the anxieties of her milieu.
For this show Roxman Gatt will be showcasing two moving image pieces from 2016, hey can u c me and I Want 2 Protect U and a painting It Smelt of Dead Sex, from 2016.
— Teresa Sciberras (b.1979), is reading for an MFA at the University of Malta and MONASH University in Melbourne, and is based in Malta. Working mainly in painting, drawing and collage, she draws inspiration from the Early Renaissance, structures and atmospheric worlds of magical realism. Her work enquires about intersections, bridging together different structures in order to examine their relationship.
A fascination with the icons of constructed space, Sciberras seems to create work that exists in a dream state, reminiscent of Calvino’s magic realism masterpiece Invisible Cities. The built object itself looks to be the most recurring subject in her paintings. From the quieter works like the Blind Spot painting series to the more energetic work like Pharmakos the sense of space and limned objects runs throughout.
What one finds, looking at Sciberras’ work, is a fascination with boundaries whether those implicated in attempts to reach back through personal nostalgia, the physical boundaries of the urban space or thematic—displacement, home or identity.
Marginalia, a series of drawings to be exhibited in this show, captures an essence of the preoccupations that exist in most of Sciberras’ work. Indeed, the marginalia are notes written on the margins of a text; this series becomes the notes on the margins of her practice, in more than one sense. The drawings, created in part from the leftovers of paintings, become ‘catchment’ areas, where spillover ideas, marks and themes coalesce into these drawings to expand the practice itself into new spaces.
The themes here revolve around the idea of boundaries too, definitions of inside and outside; curiously though, in context of her practice and the themes at large of her work, through Marginalia Sciberras seems to be testing the boundaries of her practice itself. Depictions of objects, places, spaces and states of being; some read like abstract compositions, others like landscapes or still life, yet all have the quality of dreams.
Teresa Sciberras will be showing a selection of drawings from the series Marginalia, from 2008-2009.