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Valletta Contemporary

Artist Interview: JP Migneco


Interviewed by Ann Dingli 
April 2023

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JP Migneco has a Master of Fine Arts in Digital Arts degree from the University of Malta. His first solo exhibition took place in Valletta in 2018, and he has since exhibited steadily in both solo and group shows in Malta and Japan. Migneco’s practiceuses drawing, painting and digital media applications with a process that includes planning, experimentation, andinterdisciplinary mediums. Migneco’s work is often inspired by ideas related to landscape painting, geometry, and colour theory, incorporating methods of reinterpreting images of symbolic objects and locations through the use of illusory colour patterns, which are often derived from notions related to modern art, geology and architecture. He speaks to Ann Dingli about his latest solo show at Valletta Contemporary (VC).


Ann Dingli (AD): Can you talk about how you came to your method of painting, what you term ‘fractal’ abstraction. How do you go about building one of your compositions?


JP Migneco (JPM): I started working on each piece by visiting different locations around the coast of Malta and taking photographs of landforms that I found interesting. A few of these images were printed on paper to help me develop 3D grid drawings, which were then scanned and altered digitally. A series of digital colour studies were developed and used as references to produce additional line drawings that were transferred onto large canvases. After priming each canvas, I began the process of layering every shape with multiple coats of acrylic paint. The colours used to construct each image were derived from the photographs and memories that I developed of each place. 


Each painting includes solid tones on a smooth flat surface in order to place emphasis on colour interaction and digital qualities. The result is similar to digital printing in its lack of texture and visible brushstrokes. The use of fragmented polygonal structures relates to fractal geometry, which is a concept that is used to study complex forms that occur in nature. The shapes that I used are simplified and similar to the kind of structures that could be found in examples of fractal designs in modern architecture, or low poly virtual environments that are used for gaming and 3D modelling.  


Installation view of Irregularity by JP Migneco (Image by Elisa von Brockdorff)

AD: Who or what are your biggest artistic influences? Your work seems to visually relate to the surgical application of artists like Bridget Riley and Ellsworth Kelly. Are you drawn to works from Pop Art, Colour Field and Minimalist painting? Or do you consider your work solely related to abstracted forms in nature?


JPM: This series of artworks draws inspiration from various modern art movements, such as Impressionism, Cubism, Futurism, Abstract Expressionism and Op Art. These influences can be seen through the application of techniques related to divisionism, geometric abstraction, dynamism and colour-field painting. Bridget Riley and Josef Albers have influenced a lot of my work, as well as many other modern and contemporary artists that explore colour interaction through the use of geometric forms.   


The method of painting that I use helps to explore colour interaction through abstract applications which involve optical mixtures, simultaneous contrast and tonal progressions. These colour applications aim to produce impressions of depth and motion that could relate to how people perceive aspects of nature.


Ras il-Hamrija by JP Migneco (Image by Elisa von Brockdorff)

AD: For this show, you say that your works “explore the relationship between natural and artificial environments”. How do they do that? Where does the natural and the unnatural begin and end in your works?


JPM: My idea was to combine elements of natural and artificial structures through the use of colour and geometry. This approach was used in an attempt to blur the boundaries between nature and artificiality. Throughout this process I was experimenting with concepts related to the manner in which urban and virtual environments could alter people’s perception of nature.


Some of these notions were influenced by a psychologist named Peter Kahn, who writes about environmental generational amnesia. He states that each generation perceives the environment into which it is born, no matter how urbanized or polluted, as normal, and each generation thinks of nature based on what it is exposed to. Kahn also studies the advantages and disadvantages of experiencing technological versions of natural environments. His research suggests that artificial forms of nature could be beneficial for human well-being however they cannot substitute the therapeutic qualities of experiencing natural surroundings.  


AD: What is ‘fractal terrain’, and how does it relate to the Maltese landscape specifically?


JPM: Fractal terrain generation methods are used to create photo-realistic digital renditions of natural environments through the use of iterated polygonal patterns. Similar fractal patterns can also be found in aspects of nature and architecture, such as plants, trees, landforms and biomorphic structures.  


Installation view of Irregularity by JP Migneco (Image by Elisa von Brockdorff)

AD: Your show is also said to link to the theme of “urbanisation and the advancement of technology”. How do you think this has changed the local landscape?


JPM: Natural land is continually used for urban development in Malta and many other parts of the world. New structures are designed through the use of advanced technological tools that make the process easier. Some architects produce biomorphic designs which are inspired by naturally occurring shapes. One example that influenced this series of work is the recent collapse of the Azure Window in Gozo, which prompted an architect named Svetozar Andreev to propose the construction of an artificial version in its place. This made me think about how people are developing new ways to substitute natural landscapes.



Detail from Blue Grotto by JP Migneco (Image by Elisa von Brockdorff)

AD: Is your show intended to make a comment on the development of Malta’s coastal terrain – whether positive or negative? Or is it merely a neutral representation of what you see as an abstracted version of its land?

JPM: What interests me the most about these coastal landforms is the way that they resemble architectural designs such as towers, arches, and swimming pools. These types of ancient landforms have been used as inspiration for construction that alters natural land. I think my work could lean towards providing awareness or admiration of these landscapes to some extent; however it is also intended to remind viewers that these places might not last much longer due to natural and/or man-made phenomena.

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