Walking to St James Cavalier never got as ‘colourful’ as the day i first shook hands with Austin Camilleri – curator for ‘Wiċċ imb Wiċċ – images of the self’. I came across him and artist John Paul Azzopardi as they painted the main door in a bright, and i would say, shocking, magenta. For those whose eyes didn’t see, this was the ‘brand’ colour for ‘Wiċċ imb Wiċċ‘ – a collective held for the Malta Arts Festival, where artists questioned their own reality… or the lack of it.
Something that stood out in this installation was the fresh use of space within the upper galleries of St James Cavalier. The audience was channeled through a path and into ‘new’ spaces which hosted the various works. John Paul Azzopardi (Malta), Zarko Baseski (Macedonia), Vince Briffa (Malta), Joseph Calleja (Malta/UK), Dominique de Beir (France), Jessica Harrison (Scotland), Davor Ljubicic (Germany/Croatia), Åsa Riton (Sweden), Raphael Vella (Malta), Elisa von Brockdorff (Malta) and guest artists Tracey Emin and Giuseppe Hyzler provided a curious mix of thoughts, themes, languages and interpretations of the same theme.
John Paul Azzopardi, synonymous with his found-object sculptures ushered the visitors into the first hall and into his memory lane – a walk which he considers as a self identifier.
Raphael Vella’s backlit portrait came as a teaser through a play of light into the discovery of the young Raphael and his spiritual looking back at time that passed. A very sinister approach especially compared to the neighboring self-portraits by various year-two pupils from the Laura Vicuna school. Their colorful and vivid expressionism is a fresh reminder about childhood hopes and dreams for a better future.
Elisa Von Brockdorff‘s photographic pictures, titled ‘evb’, re-establish her ever-growing reputation as the most colorful contemporary, amongst local artists. Whilst the subjects of these photographs speak a very common language, their deeper roots expose the intimate identity of the artist. Once again, Elisa comes out as a love-me-or-hate-me observer behind the lens.
‘I am my Photograph’ is a documentation by Vince Briffa in which a series of daily photographic portraits taken in 2004/5, create a time-lapse which assist the artist in relocating his self in that which he described as a “a narcissistic sculpture of immortality through artifice.” The column-like structure made of monitors, imposed itself peacefully but predominantly – like a Gulliver, over the tiny observer.
After talking to a few people who visited ‘Wiċċ imb Wiċċ – images of the self’, I can easily say that Zarko Baseski’s hyper-real sculpture definitely stood out and impressed. The scaled-down self-sculpture, nitpicked on the visitors attention who questioned the reality of the subject and expected some sudden movements by the subject… the perfect reflection of what the artist had been through.
Joseph Calleja’s large ‘portrait’ made of his friends’ Facebook profile pictures was one of the most freshest and contemporary takes in the exhibition, yet the fact that it was a ‘resolved’, locked puzzle, killed the interactive power of the piece.
Last but not least, I would also like to spend a word for Davor Ljubicic‘s performance art video which stood as a very strong cherry on a most exquisite cake. Reiterating on real facts like the death of children in Africa, he involved the viewer by sharing his questions whilst contextualising them within the space of the gallery.
‘Wiċċ imb Wiċċ – images of the self’, supported by the British Council and Heritage Malta, was indeed one the better exhibitions which i’ve attended to in the past months. One major setback though; the summer opening hours for St James Cavalier give little chance for the wider audience to attend. Opening at 9am and closing at 1pm, the space is made practically unavailable for the working professionals and hundreds of tourists. This issue should be quickly addressed to provide collectives like ‘Wiċċ imb Wiċċ – images of the self’ the deserved exposure.
Photography courtesy of Elisa Von Brockdorff