top of page

Valletta Contemporary

Artist interview: Maxine Attard

Interviewed by Ann Dingli 
January 2024

Maxine Attard_edited.jpg

Maxine Attard during the set-up of Before the work, there is "I".

Maxine Attard’s studio practice is a retreat from the chaos of the outer world. Her work marks itself in the ritual of repetitive gesture, towards a kind of perfection she knows is unattainable. The search for the sublime is without end. As soon as she finishes one work, she starts another.


Her work tackles the void, the nothing. It is a pursuit of inner/otherworldliness through the materials and how she uses them, in careful geometrical compositions, subtle lines, a minimal palette of colour as well as in the introspection and self-analysis she goes through in the process of making the work.


Though the majority of her works, including the ones in this show, remain without a title, one could look at Maxine’s work as many things. To her, the finished pieces remain essentially compositions of forms and materials.


Ann Dingli (AD): You mention a search for ‘God’, that you have been working in pursuit of since your student days in the UK. The word ‘sublime’ also comes into the description of this show’s outcome. How do these abstract ambitions conflate or collide with the very corporeal theme of your personhood? The “I” within the show?

Maxine Attard (MA): There are over seventeen thousand words written on the walls of the gallery. I mention the “search for God” once. Many have read the text in the show and even went twice to the gallery to finish reading it all. All of the viewers who read the text understood very well what this show is about. 


But since you are asking about my “search for God”, I will explain. I was very religious in my teens and then around nineteen I lost my faith and I had to replace this loss or ‘God’ with something else which in my case happened to be creating what I like to call objects. My studies in England were about this. After I finished my studies, life happened. I lost focus on why I was making these objects and I went through a time of great anxiety. The art world doesn’t help much in that it encourages the artist to repeat the same work over and over again because it sells, to mention just one reason. After recovering from my anxiety, I wanted to find again what it is that makes me create these objects. I started to remember how I used to ‘feel’ before I lost my faith, when I believed in ‘God’. The clarity and the certainty that I had lost came back and I immediately knew what my next pieces were going to look like. This was a clear indication what I look for in my work. Artists including Antony Gormley and Anselm Kiefer talk about their loss of faith in relation to their work. James Joyce’s “A Portrait of the Artist as "Young Man” tells a similar story. So this is what I mean by my ‘search for God’.

But again, the show is not really about this. It is about many things including, as a journalist has put it very well, me taking a step back and telling everyone, by writing it on the walls of the gallery, about the conditions under which I, and other artists, have to work or cannot work at all.

Regarding your question, I think there has been a misunderstanding on your part.


Installation view of Before the work, there is "I" by Maxine Attard

AD: You articulate outcry towards the art world here and in other places online where you talk about your work and career. What makes you so displeased with it? At times you indicate hurtful or violent treatment. Is this literal or figurative?


MA: Artists having to go through an operation because of stress caused by having their funding taken away, for example. This is what “displeases” me.


This show is about situations, conditions, anxieties, fears, hope and more. Many who have actually read the texts on the walls saw very well that this show has nothing to do with what “displeases” me. I think in my writings, many saw their own work, their career, themselves as artists and as human beings.


Same goes for my “other places online”. I assume you are referring to my posts on facebook. The intention behind those, very early on was to start building up towards this show. I wanted to share my experiences and my thoughts to my audience on facebook which is largely local to see if there would be any reactions, to know more about what goes on and to try to put my finger on the pulse of things. What happened was that a few artists and non-artists working in the cultural sector contacted me to share with me their experiences. What you describe as “hurtful and violent treatment” has actually happened either to me or to them. Of course, I included what they shared with me in my writings with their permission.


AD: Can you describe the relationship between the incremental written piece within this show and your wider practice, which has often been a result of iterative, repetitive building up of component parts?


MA: I am not sure if I would call the written piece “incremental” because there is a lot written on the walls of the gallery. Maybe I don’t understand what you mean by ‘incremental’. Writing is a new way of expression for me. At the same time my wider practice could be going through some changes as I continue to dig deeper into myself, taking my work out of the box which it has been pushed into and stop imposing definitions. This experimenting might be evident in this show as different parts could be at odds with each other.


Maxine Attard, Untitled (2023) Aluminium, window blinds, pencil, wood & glass, 55 x 55 x 7.4cm

AD: Do you invite viewers’ feedback in some way within the exhibition’s format? If so, how do you capture it, how does it imprint on the work, if it does?

MA: I’ve been getting feedback on this show way before it even happened. I had been sharing my ideas and my writings for this show with artists, writers and other individuals both locally and elsewhere. On opening day, viewers’ response was very emotional. Since the opening, I have been receiving a lot of feedback encouraging me to continue and messages from local artists thanking me for doing the show. I’ve had some feedback from viewers on a brief visit to Malta who appreciated the honesty and clarity in my writing. The show has triggered conversation on a few topics and I am learning a lot watching people’s reactions. I even got feedback on the questions for this interview. I am looking forward to receiving some criticism which is constructive from who has actually visited the show.

Installation view of Before the work, there is "I"  by Maxine Attard.

AD: How will the central work be documented and saved beyond the confines of this exhibition itself? What is the next step in exploring the “I” after the work?

MA: I have been offered financial help to publish the texts by someone who believes the texts are important and should remain available to be read. There is the possibility that recordings of conversations will continue and there are artists talking about making some changes in the way they work.

I will continue being as human as possible and as artist as possible. I have no other choice. I encourage others and particularly artists who create more because they need to and less because of some lofty ambition, to do the same.

bottom of page