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Wara ż-żewġ edizzjonijiet preċedenti ta’ Art+Feminism f’Malta, Spazju Kreattiv stieden numru żgħir ta’ artisti nisa, liema xogħol tagħhom jifforma parti mill-Kollezzjoni tal-Arti tal-Fondazzjoni Kreattiva, biex jippreżentaw xogħlijiet ġodda flimkien ma’ xogħlijiet oħra ta’ artisti internazzjonali li pparteċipaw għall-sejħa pubblika.
Il-proġett jiffoka fuq il-kreazzjoni ta’ kontenut artistiku u oriġinali taż-żewġ artisti żgħażagħ Isaac Warrington u Alessio Cuschieri.
Biex tiċċelebra ċ-ċentinarju mit-twelid Jean Zaleski u l-għaxar anniversarju mit-tnedija tagħha, Art+Feminism 2020 tinkludi wirja speċjali ta’ xi wħud mix-xogħlijiet tagħha li jinsabu f’Malta f’kollezzjonijiet privati u fil-kollezzjoni tal-arti tal-Fondazzjoni Kreattivita’.
Art Additives hija serje ta’ taħditiet, workshops, laqgħat u avvenimenti satelittarji żviluppati abbażi tal-programm tal-arti viżiva kontemporanja ta’ Spazju Kreattiv.
Art works from the Fondazzjoni Kreattività collection.
Debbie Caruana Dingli
Watercolour and charcoal. 2000.
The Husband formed part of Debbie Caruana Dingli’s 2001 solo exhibition titled Games People Play. Despite its light-hearted outward appearance, the collection had consisted largely of humorous expositions of the falsity and pretences that she observed in the relationships between people.
As the artist stated, “I love people-watching… either on the bus, or anywhere really”, and it is this acute sense of observation which makes her paintings so relevant.
In The Husband the viewer is placed in the middle of an awkward formal gathering. The presence of three ladies at the centre of which we find one seemingly loud robust woman in a blue dress clasping on to her cake faced husband’s hand makes us wonder at the absurdity of the situation. The two women framing her are almost turning their noses up at what she is saying, whilst the men seem to be utterly flabbergasted. The women are oblivious to the husband’s situation, focused almost with sheer contempt at what the central woman is saying.
One can almost compare the moral judgement given in Peter Bruegel the Elder’s ‘The Peasant Wedding’ and look at this painting as a modern day take on the notion that the festivities have deteriorated into self-indulgence. The phrase ‘you can’t have your cake and eat it too’ comes to mind implying that these people should not attempt to have more than is reasonable by trying to keep up appearances.
James Vella Clark
Acrylic on canvas. 2003.
The work Valletta View was first exhibited at the St James Cavalier Centre for Creativity in 2003 as part of James Vella Clark’s solo exhibition Passion in the Village. The artist drew his inspiration from Maltese Villages and townscapes.
This piece shows the silhouettes of the Carmelite Church dome to the right and the St Paul’s Anglican Cathedral Spire to the left. These architectural features dominate above an array of abstracted buildings which are rendered in various shades of cool colours juxtaposed against warmer shades of brown.
This view is immediately recognizable to those who live in the Maltese islands and is to many a comforting sight, indeed the artist himself stated: “I consider myself very religious and, probably, the recurrent appearance of a dome in my paintings represents my beliefs”.
When viewing this work one can note the influence of Esprit Barthet’s Rooftop series, which were also inspired by his time residing in Valletta. Unlike Barthet, James Vella Clark leaves the sky visible in the painting giving the audience a different, perhaps calmer world view of the same subject matter.
Persistence of Form
Chinese ink on Chinese rice paper, set on canvas. 72cm x 72cm. 2016.
He Ping is a Chinese artist, born in Shanghai. His works take their inspiration from traditional calligraphy and modern expressionism to produce flowing, lyrical paintings. Though calligraphy lays the foundation for this pattern creation, his artworks move away from the formal traditional writing towards minimalism and abstraction.
Ping’s abstraction is rooted in the spiritualism and dynamics of life, nature and mankind. Each brush stroke is animated with bold colours against a white background radiating with light and dynamism. Ping himself stated: ‘It is through searching in the depths of things that I discovered the infinite possibilities of painting. There possibilities may not be apparent, but they are indeed an existing component of the colorful and structural constituents of life and the universe’.
The strokes and symbols he creates are not written in a traditional calligraphic manner, yet are immediately ‘readable’ to the viewer because it stimulates within us the desire for contemplation, reflection, meditation and ultimately inner world views.In these two pieces from Persistence of Form, Ping utilizes the elements of Chinese culture and infuses them with a Western idiom. His works are akin to action painting made famous by Pollock’s gestural abstraction pieces. The thick strokes and curves create a balance that captures the spirituality and vitality of human physical movement to emit the inner soul, when painting He Ping feels “as though life and the cosmos move in synchrony”. This fusion between contemporary artistic practice with ancient traditions creates a new language akin to visual poetry which may be tapped into when the viewer pauses from life’s hectic demands to just simply be.
Mixed media on canvas. 2007.
Graham Woodall was a professional artist and teacher who worked in the UK and Malta. His Untitled artwork came into the Fondazzjoni Kreattività Art Collection in 2007 following his solo exhibition titled Besieged.
Whilst Woodall’s subject matter ranged from landscapes, portraits, figurative compositions and 3D structures the artwork Untitled is purely abstract. Untitled is comprised of paint and mixed media which when applied to the canvas rendered a low relief.
The exhibition Besieged was in the artist’s own words: ‘a reflective collection of artwork, based on first-hand observations and drawings around Malta’. Besieged showcased works which were made of cardboard, wood and handmade paper using pulp from recycled supplies. Also displayed were found objects. Woodall’s aim was to try and engage the public in the ongoing debate about the changing face of Malta, with particular reference to the amount of construction which was taking place. The 60 pieces of artwork forming part of Besieged reflected the same theme.
When looking closely at Untitled one can almost picture the coffered ceiling of the Mosta dome being swallowed up by an external layer of warm colours being yellow ochre, burnt siena and burnt umber resulting in a harsh juxtaposition. This layering is only broken by the almost central underlying blue textured by the canvas itself. This work is reminiscent of a ‘collage’ which comes from the French term papiers collés (or découpage) utilized to create avant-garde assemblages by pasting paper cut-outs onto various surfaces. ‘Collage allows the opening up of consciousness, which is very direct…it’s also a way of looking at what you are consuming all the time’ – John Stezaker. Indeed, what Woodall was perhaps trying to express through his artworks was the fact that the Maltese population was no longer ‘consuming’ terraced fields and rubble walls so much as layers of construction. To this end Woodall was successful in making a bold statement when observing what was happening in his adoptive country. Woodall regularly held workshops with various museums, hospitals and schools, both in Malta and the UK wherein he wanted to promote the positive in people.
Generated from this idea of positivity, Besieged allowed the viewer to reflect on the changes that each one of us as individuals can undertake to better our environment. Woodall’s artworks are a commentary and an invitation for audiences to take action, as he stated about his workshops ‘although I have a vision of what we are trying to achieve, the method and direction can be a surprise’.
Silk screen print. 2002.
Bridget McCrum’s sculptures and drawings span the gap between figurative work and abstraction. In this Untitled piece there is a delicate balance between geometry and abstracted birds creating a fusion of content with form and with the medium.
This work formed part of an exhibition of bronzes, pastels, drawings and photographs exhibited in the main hall of St James Cavalier in 2002. ‘Untitled’ may be compared to the work of the futurists such as Umberto Boccioni, Giacomo Balla and significantly Constantin Brancusi. However, whilst the futurists were concerned with the celebration of technology, scientific advance, psychoanalysis and all things modern, McCrums work emphasises the aspect of universal dynamism and flux.
Untitled by McCrum integrates trajectories of speed and flight into the representation of a bird in flight. It does not depict a particular bird at a specific moment, but rather synthesizes the process of a bird in flight in an almost Chronophotographic manner. Unlike Chronophotographs which capture the multiple phases of movement resulting in a scientific output, McCrum manages to give the birds a sense of motion when viewed.
This can be attested from her own statement when discussing her sculptural work: “The landscape around my two homes has inevitably worked itself into my mind. The gentle curves of the hills of South Devon and the stark limestone cliffs carved by wind and sea on Gozo, have all subconsciously influenced my carving. Looking down on birds circling and gliding above their prey from my home high above the Dart estuary. They make marvellously abstracted subjects and I have carved them ever since I have been here.”
Bridget McCrum works primarily in stone, and some pieces are also cast in bronze. Whilst initially inspired by archaeological finds in Somalia, she was later influenced by the work of Brancusi, Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth. Though concerned with form and abstraction McCrum’s work is also about the relationship between art and the environment. The basis of her work is a lyrical abstraction of living forms resulting in showcasing the primary elements of the animals she depicts. This lyricism is wonderfully represented in the birds depicted in ‘Untitled’.
Pilbara Rock Mosaic
Kirsten Jeffcoat’s work ‘Pilbara Rock Mosaic’ was created after her previous collaboration with the Ngarluma Aboriginal people who are the original inhabitants of the coastal areas in the Pilbara region of Western Australia. In 1994 she completed 76 works from her 12 month stay in the Pilbara region and created an exhibition titled ‘Taking the Pilbara to Paris’.
The rock art found in the Pilbara region is sacred for Aboriginal people and its traditional custodians the Ngarluma-Yindjibarndi, the Yaburara-Mardudhunera and the Woon-goo-tt-oo. Juhurrpa (“The Dreamtime” or “The Dreaming”) is a religion grounded in the land itself, it incorporates creation and other land-based narratives, social processes which encompass morality, ethics and kinship regulations. This complex concept informs people’s economic, cognitive, affective and spiritual lives.
‘Pilbara Rock Mosaic’ does not reflect the aboriginal Petroglyphs (rock engravings) directly, which are found in the area but the work is still charged with meaning. The artwork reflects the rock itself creating a Braque like image of fragmented tesserae set within a red silk frame. The work seeks to create a closer connection with the natural world and reveals a degree of bonding with the land itself. Jeffcoat having absorbed the natural beauty of the Burrup Peninsula where the Petroglyphs are located created a ‘sense of place’ by recreating the colours and contours of the Pilbara. The expansive spaces, the delicate eco- systems, the quiet yet fervent intensity of the outback all come together in this silk painting to convey perhaps her own Dreamtime (Juhurrpa) experience, wherein cultures are overlaid on the land.
Just as ‘The Dreaming’ embraces time past, present and future so too does the ‘Pilbara Rock Mosaic’ which reflects the hopeful sustainability and continuity of local landscapes.
Weekend with Grandma
Watercolour and ink 55.5cm x 73.5cm.
Xebgħa Nies (loosely translated as a throng of people) was the title of the 2014 collective exhibition wherein Moira Zahra first exhibited her work ‘Weekend with Grandma’. The recurring theme of the exhibition was people.
Weekend with Grandma playfully depicts four women by the pool illustrated in an almost caricature like fashion. The familiar scene is given a humorous rendition as instead of a toddler in her arms, the central figure holds an ant with the same level of affection one would extend to a child. Her lean and lanky silhouette is juxtaposed against the ant she is holding, with a playful twist on the humorous theory of pets possibly resembling their owners and vice versa.
The four figures are whimsically illustrated with cool tropical colours rendering ‘Weekend with Grandma’ a comforting almost nostalgic picture even with the depiction of a six legged ant. One is certain that this quirky artwork may be taken with a light-hearted giggle, sending us back to childhood fantasies when everything seemed possible- even having an ant as a pet.
Mixed media on Canvas. 2006.
Aħmar formed part of a series of abstract works created by Christopher Saliba for the 2006 exhibition ‘Of Time and Timelessness’. These works were considered by the artist as a personal interpretation of the way memories and emotions are evoked by light, space, texture and colour.
“I paint energy and essence and my work is about time. I interpret memory by fragmenting my canvas into geometrical shapes, each of which is treated as an individual experience or memory in time.” Saliba lays down layers of colour on his canvasses representing the passage of time. From a distance, broad bands of colour, create a strong statement. Close up, the viewer finds textures and markings that continue to engage the eye. The artist rubbed and scraped away layers of paint to reveal different surfaces on the canvas, which may be compared to the way objects found in nature are worn away by the elements and the passage of time.
His paintings may be viewed as being either structurally built, or intuitive, spontaneous and impulsive. “There is the idea of accident,” explained Saliba, “the balance between the order and unpredicted facts.” Accidental and unintended happenings throughout the working process reflect the fact that the passage of memory is not simply chronological, linear or rational. The work narrates nothing but its own story.
Whilst the works differ from Rothko in painterly technique, Rothko’s idea that “a painting is not about an experience. It is an experience” is apt when viewing the work Aħmar by Saliba.
The Darkened Path
Mixed media on Canvas. 70 x 100 cm. 2004.
‘The Darkened Path’, formed part of the ‘Manifesting the Soul’ exhibition held at St James Centre for Creativity in 2004. This was Sagona’s third solo exhibition and brought together around forty abstract works created between 2003 and 2004.
All figures and landscapes which were the subject of his previous works, are now removed to make way for pure abstraction manifested from the artist’s own meditations on life. The series placed particular emphasis on the spiritual thoughts on God and notions of destiny, sacrifice and pure energy. ‘The Darkened Path’ is a work which though solemn, gives hope through the cracks in the rendering of light through the dark. The idea that though life may be difficult at times, there is always hope.
Sagona believes that abstraction is the purest form of art wherein one may convey the psyche in a direct manner. Though the artist brought forward his own inner feelings and thoughts on canvas, the viewer is still left to his own spiritual journey when looking at this work. The colours and lines may be considered as guidelines on a map, to withdraw the viewer’s own inner most thoughts.
Olaug Vethal (1946–2007)
Acrylic on linen. 101cm x 101cm. 2004.
Jazz 2, was originally exhibited during a posthumous exhibition in 2008 titled ‘Grazzi Malta-Retrospective Works’ and curated by Olaug Vethal’s former student, Christine Xuereb.
This work was executed at the Malta Jazz festival in 2004. Completed at a time between 1995 and 2006 when Olaug Vethal together with fellow artists Ebba Von Fersen and Jeni Caruana would visit the Malta Jazz Festival and paint live while the musical performances would be underway. Olaug Vethal was a prolific artist and one marked characteristic of her work is her vibrant use of colour and her speed of execution. Vethal had a rigorous academic background and so she was able to create these swift works whilst still remaining true to design fundamentals: form, colour and composition.
For those former students and collaborators who remember her, Olaug used to paint with the totality of her body generating sweeping brush strokes and allowing the paint to flow. Her marked vivacity is evident in this en plain air painting wherein the vibe and atmosphere of the event is effectively transferred onto the canvas. Jazz 2 does not capture the rhythm of the music as much as the ephemerality of the live performance. Each brush stroke was marked decidedly and there is a heightened sensitivity for composition and colours which are comparable to Wasily Kandinsky’s sentiments on music and colour: “colour is a power which directly influences the soul”.
Isabelle Borg (1959–2010)
Oil and mixed media on canvas. 87cm x 47cm. 1998.
Though Isabelle Borg was known mostly for her figurative and landscape works this piece forms part of her geometric abstract phase. Blue Pyramid eliminates all traces of figures, or architecture resulting in one of her most minimal works.
Created after her trip to Cairo in 1991 one may note that she was impressed by the quality of light, and influenced by the pyramids and Islamic architecture, which incorporates geometric shapes in its design. The use of geometry is thought to reflect the language of the universe and help the believer to reflect on life and the greatness of creation, something which left a lasting impact on Borg. The careful and calculated use of form and well-balanced colour scheme is what is striking yet paradoxically calming about this work.
This balance and meditative quality are repeated throughout her abstract works which formed part of her 2001 exhibition at St James Cavalier titled ‘Sol’. These works were created at an experimental phase when she used pure pigment in the preparation of the canvas. Her colours are intense, yet fragile and chalky due to the fact that pure pigment was mixed with the gesso base. She would at times allow the chalky base to show through the picture combining with wax mediums and varnishes which resulted in different effects of light and texture. One may be tempted to compare her work to Nicolas de Stael (1914-1955) due to the similar way that line gives way to bold colour however, her work is more akin to the controlled spontaneity of Jackson Pollock (1914-1955) and the early work of Mark Rothko (1903-1970). To quote Isabelle Borg “It is more to do with experience than just a matter of construction and composition”, leaving interpretation open to the viewer.
No More Mdina Landscapes
Lisa Falzon (b. 1983)
Acrylic on canvas. 65cm x 65cm. 2006.
Lisa Falzon draws her inspiration from the notions of femininity – vulnerability, tenderness, protection and inner strength- to render her images into visual metaphors and stories. Such a narrative develops in her early work ‘No More Mdina Landscapes’ and provokes the viewer to question their opinions on what constitutes true progress.
No More Mdina Landscapes, is at first glance a rather ‘cute’ image of a girl seated on a rubble wall, making a hand gesture inviting the viewer to keep a secret. Upon further inspection it is evident that the secret we are entrusted with is far from childlike or innocent but pushes forward an ecological message. The artist toys with the viewer’s thoughts on how we treat our natural and urban landscape. On the one hand the view of Mdina is burning against a beautiful cerulean blue sky, and on the other the girl sits on a traditional rubble wall cheekily holding the match. A harsh question is asked: should we hold on to our traditional landscape or should we make way for urban development?
This work raises the same questions as the Pop-Surrealist artist Mark Ryden, whose works in ‘The Tree Show’ also encourage the viewer to think about the environment. Both artists use innocent characters which at first glance lull the viewer into a false sense of security-“this is simply a pretty painting” – but upon deeper inspection sends a message that penetrates on multiple levels and reflects upon the values by which we live.