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2 December 2021 – 12 February 2022


Circle (2021) & The Archetype Series event poster


Norbert Francis Attard - The Archetype Series


The Archetype Series is a fifteen-piece collection of diminutive structures, each built from four-sided measuring rulers, appropriated and given new meaning and metaphor by artist Norbert Francis Attard. The series finds lineage the practice of found object art or objet trouvé, with strong links to symbolist, minimalist and conceptual art canons.  Its point of departure is the object itself – a foldable tool known as a multi-angle template scale ruler. The ruler has been re-purposed as a foundational element in the creation of Attard’s ‘archetypes’. Each of the fifteen is presented as a vessel for wider social, cultural, political even metaphysical commentary. With each singular structure, Attard’s excerpted forms unlock ideas around a broad range of subject-matter – from the poetics of geometry to the transcendence of nature, the inescapability of pop cultural iconography, and the bleeding relationship between low and high culture. The series’ commonality lies in its offering of symbols, or ‘archetypes’, as custodians of deeper meaning.


The series’ title converses with the legacy of Plato’s concept of ‘pure form’, which is believed to embody the fundamental characteristics of any given thing. Plato's Theory of Forms discusses the physical world as a mere image of what is 'real', a mimesis of ultimate reality that exists beyond what is material. Plato’s Forms are abstract, perfect, and constant – they supersede time and space and exist in the Realm of Forms. Attard sets off from this point of purity, proposing ‘purity of form’ as an initial phase in the creation of the series. 


The series also takes on the meaning of the word ‘archetype’ as a recurring symbol. This definition is honoured by the series’ uniform black colour, silver fixings and metal material, which remains constant across each individual structure. This formal consistency gives space back to the structures’ symbolic references. The ‘archetype’ therefore becomes the carrier of amplified ideas; the object is a mere framework – power is transferred from ‘object’ to ‘idea’ within the moment of reading. This transference shifts between abstraction and exactness across the different structures. 


The weight of this series lives beyond its physicality. It is energised by allegory, superstition, folklore, critique, and at times lamentation. It also exists in the fullness of the collection, the decision to include fifteen pieces itself inferring meaning onto the work. The number fifteen is taken up as a final symbol that lives alongside the visual metaphors carried by each structure. Beyond the series, the significance of the number fifteen permeates into popular culture belief systems with an energy that Attard responds to and connects with. In Numerology, which is a belief in the mystical relationship between numbers and coinciding events, the number fifteen is tied to curiosity and exploration, love, new beginnings, and positivity. These are all conditions tied to the context in which The Archetype Series was made.

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Norbert Francis Attard


Norbert Francis Attard (b. 1951) is based on the island of Gozo (Malta) and since 2010 in Berlin (Germany). He  started as a self-taught painter and graphic artist before turning to installation art in 1997. He graduated in Architecture from the University of Malta in 1977, practicing the profession as architect for twenty years until 1996. He lived in Germany in 1978/1979 working with the firm ‘Licht in Raum’, directed by Johannes Dinnebier, one of Germany’s pioneers in light design. Attard’s contemporary art practice incorporates architecture, sculpture, photography, video and installation, to explore his major interests in places and their memories. He blurs the boundaries of these disciplines,  a characteristic of Attard’s work, to incorporate the irreducible physicality of sites, and to explore their sedimented multiple layers of memory, treating them as a product of place, of social interaction, and as a generative process. He is renowned for his poetic and varied approaches to artistic projects.  He deliberately combines social, cultural, political, scientific and religious themes with a bold arrangement of unorthodox materials, meticulously constructed with an architect’s disciplined eye for detail. He investigates elements of irony, duality, dichotomy and ambivalence and combines every-day materials and found objects in diverse manners. 


He is a founding member of stART (2002) - a group of Maltese contemporary artists; a committee member of the Malta Council for Culture and the Arts (2002-2005); committee member of Piazza Teatru Rjal (2013-2020), director of GOZOcontemporary since 2001 - an art space, offering self-directed residencies to international and local artists, on the island of Gozo and currently a committee member on the visual arts sub-committee of MEIA (Malta Entertainment Industry & Arts Association). Norbert Francis Attard is founder of META Foundation which is the organising body of Valletta Contemporary (VC) which he established in April 2018. He is currently the artistic director of Valletta Contemporary.


He has exhibited internationally: Court of Justice, Luxemburg, (2017); Council of Europe, Strasbourg (2016); Kunstquartier Bethanien, Berlin, Germany (2015); Beijing Biennale, Beijing, China (2015); Sculpture by the Sea: Aarhus, Denmark (2015); Bewegter Wind, Kassel, Germany, (2014); Malta Design Week, Valletta, Malta, (2014); Fjerrerup I Bund & Grund, Fjellerup, Denmark, (2013); Maifesta 9 Parallel Events, Genk, Belgium (2012); Beaufort 04, De Panne, Belgium (2012); Meridian/Urban Project, Berlin, Germany (2011); Galeria Nuble, Santander, Spain (2011); OSTRALE 011, Dresden, Germany;  I-Park, Connetticut, USA (2011); 5th Biennial VentoSul, Curitiba, Brazil (2009); 25th Alexandria Biennial, Egypt (2009); CUBE OPEN, Manchester, UK (2009); 2nd Bienal de Canarias, Canary Islands (2009); INHABIT 09, Brisbane, Australia (2009); Turner Contemporary, Margate, UK. (2008); Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin, Ireland (2008); INTRUDE 366, Zendai Museum of Modern Art, Shanghai, China (2008); 3rd Echigo Tsumari Triennale, Japan, (2006); Kaohsiung Museum of Fine Arts, Taiwan (2005); Casoria Museum of Contemporary Art, Naples, Italy (2005); ARTIADE, Athens, Greece (2004);  Macedonia Museum of Contemporary Art, Thessaloniki, Greece (2003); 8th Havana Biennale (2003); 2nd Liverpool Biennale (2002); Edinburgh International Festival, Scotland (2002); FLOATING LAND, Noosa, Australia (2001); DIASPORA, Oviedo, Spain (1998), amongst others.


He represented Malta in the 48th Venice Biennale in 1999.


Norbert Francis Attard has received several local and international awards. He was nominated for the Cool Silicon Award, Dresden, Germany in 2011.

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