Real-life Hauntings

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The latest show at the Space2 gallery in Watford Museum, Hertfordshire, UK featured work by Malta born, UK based artist Mario Lautier Vella. The artist presented a diverse selection of drawings, paintings, sculptures, installations and video art, inspired by daily life in his haunted home.

In 2004, Mario moved to his current Hertfordshire residence but it was only in July 2009 that he had his first supernatural experiences. The exhibition entitled Like Home is the culmination of a two year project completed as part of the artist’s Masters Degree course which involved researching Victorian parlour séances and then holding his own séances to gain better understanding of the paranormal activity. Mario also visited the county archives to draw up a list of all former residents, forming the basis of an installation piece entitled Deeds.

The uncanny within domestic space is a subject which Mario also investigated. How our homes shelter what we wish to keep secret, where the invisible becomes visible and the familiar becomes unfamiliar. He questions whether this provides us with the means to feel safe in our private space. Elements including twins, doppelgangers, alter-egos, masks and mirrors, all of which are deemed uncanny by psychologists such as Sigmund Freud and Otto Rank have also shaped the work and are now presented as forms of protection from all that we dread – confusing and evading what we most fear.

Apart from his Maltese roots, Mario also clinges to our Mediterranean culture for other ideas of protected and blessed spaces.

“Malta is one of the most Catholic nations in the world, and I am interested in how artwork can provide a sense of spiritual protection. It’s also fascinating how age-old superstitions and beliefs around the evil eye, luck and protection also continue to shape people’s thinking, including my own, to this day.”

Like Home follows Mario’s 2010 project entitled Of All That Is Seen And Unseen which centred on ghost stories told to the artist by his family about supernatural experiences they experienced in Valletta, Msida and Bormla.

“The project continues to prove very popular with a Maltese audience who enjoy watching interviews featured on my website where dad speaks about life in Mandraġġ area in Valletta and some horrific experiences involving spirits in their homes.”

Mario hopes to bring the project to Malta in the near future and is investigating funding options and exhibition venues. He is also researching a new project based around the house where he was born in Qormi and his early days spent in the village.

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