Here and Now

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. 

— 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.

ISAAC AZZOPARDI

May 2018

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