Project Category: Graphic Art

thirty three

“thirty three” offers a captivating collection of works to challenge the canons of the classical mediums and stimulate viewers’ senses through a striking aesthetic.

By utilizing reappropriation and digital manipulation techniques, I deconstruct, alter, trace and reassemble existing images into dynamic compositions that challenge the audience’s perception of reality and the traditional expectations of visual art. The works being presented explore deeply contrasting emotions like lust, sorrow, depression, desire, rejection, and sociality, reflecting both my personal evolution and the broader human experience.

While the female nude and self-portraiture feature prominently as a favourite subject, they serve as a means of expressing what’s within and beyond me, rather than an end in themselves.

I delve into the psychological, political, and spiritual aspects of human existence through layered fields of colours and textures, stripped-down abstractions, and bursts of action drawing, encouraging viewers to ponder their own lives and the world around them.

The exhibition is open from March 3, 2023 till April 1, 2023. Opening hours of the gallery are:

  • Monday to Friday from 08:30 till 14:30 and Saturdays from 09:00 till 12:00.
  • Wednesday, March 8, the exhibition will also be open between 17:30 and 19:30.

Visit the Facebook event page here

The Media

Portrait of Jesmond Mifsud

Creating this portait of Jesmond Mifsud wasn’t an easy feat. I didn’t know the man much and only spoke to him in few instances. The last time we met was in St Lucia Street, right opposite the family shop. He called me “zi” and when I asked why he explained it was because my uncle Noel who was his friend, used to call him so.

Jesmond left this world on January 16, 2020. His faith and love for Jesus was no secret as he used to preach Jesus whenever possible even through the most painful days. An exemplary and positive member of the Valletta community, Jesmond is missed till this very day.

This portrait depicts Jesmond as an elegant soul through a dark background adorned in gold and copper textures. The focus of the composition is the radiance on the subject’s face. The work is now showcased in the family shop turned wine bar by Jesmond’s elder son. May it warm the heart of his family and help the remembrance of this gentleman and all his goodness.

Portrait of Sandro Lapira

When George Lapira contacted me to commission this graphic work of his late brother, various emotions flowed through me. Even though ours wasn’t a deep friendship, with only a few moments shared during festa and the occasional chat on Messenger, Sandro did inspire a lot of good vibes in my life especially in the past 15 years since I got directly involved in the Pauline community.

A true son of Arċipierku, Sandro was a succesful man with a passion for football, fashion, Valletta, AC Milan and our patron saint, Paul of Tarsus. I recall clearly his excitement and his starry eyes when I interviewed him for a brief comment about our festa. His passion for life and complete trust in God were exemplary and a true inspiration for me. Sandro passed away in October 21, 2021 leaving the Valletta community in deep grief. Beautiful memories about this man flowed on social media following the sad news.

Portraying such an icon should have felt like a task, yet as soon as AC Milan claimed the Serie A title 2021/22 in May 22, 2022, inspiration got the best of me. The final work represents Sandro in his typical smile – his way of spreading love and offering comfort to all. Graphic references link to his passion for football, Valletta and the Pauline community in Valletta. May this work bring joy and beautiful memories to his family and friends. May it help to keep alight the rememberance of this great soul.

Pavlus

The world of art has always been captivated by portraiture, a genre that continually evolves with the changing times. In January 2021, Maltese artist Pawlu Mizzi created a digital portrait of Paul of Tarsus, which captures the essence of this significant figure within the Christian traditions. Mizzi’s synonymous artistic techniques involve digital collage, layering, and manipulation, and give a contemporary twist to portraiture by presenting the viewer with the chance to read further into the works.

This artwork is not merely a simple portrait but an intricate iconography that tells a tale of St. Paul’s legacy within the Maltese community. Mizzi’s digital artistry blends elements of traditional portraiture with contemporary techniques, creating a compelling piece of work that captures the spirit of the subject.

The Valletta landscape, with its typical Maltese wooden balconies and imposing fortifications, serves as a layered background and texture to the overall composition. A sharp edge that runs close to the face represents the sword, synonymous with St Paul’s iconography, which represents both his martyrdom and his message of spiritual warfare and the power of the Word of God. As the viewer’s gaze moves upward, the artwork reveals a panoramic view of the Pauline Parish in Valletta, with the dome of St. Paul’s Shipwreck Church dominating the skyline. Mizzi skillfully incorporates decorative elements of the titular statue by Melchiorre Cafà, residing within the same Parish Church, including details from the drapery patterns and the metal halo.

This digital artwork presents St. Paul as a beloved mascot of the Valletta Pauline community’s cultural identity, representing its history, values, and traditions. The penetrating look of ‘Pavlus’ – the word depicted in between layers – suggests a direct encounter with the viewer who is faced with questions about their true faith. The image portrayed is not the conventional representation of a saint, but rather a portrayal of a virtuous individual with a moral compass, who guides others to make decisions and take actions that promote a culture of empathy. Overall, this digital artwork is a testament to the enduring legacy of St. Paul and the timeless relevance of his teachings.

Mizzi’s artwork serves as a question about the true relevance of faith and spirituality in the modern world, and it challenges viewers to reflect on their beliefs and values. It is a striking representation of how traditional subjects and themes can be reimagined using modern artistic techniques, underscoring the vital role of art in creating cultural and spiritual identity.

This artwork was featured as a book cover for ‘L-Għaqda tal-Pawlini – L-ewwel ħamsin sena’, published in 2022 by Għaqda tal-Pawlini A.D. 1970 of Valletta.

Portrait of Liana

The composition and the colours focus on an introspection of the character, defining the spiritual reality of human essence. This was achieved through the feedback of the client who accompanied the creative process with his observant insight of the subject. It is indeed a pleasure that results were loved by the client and the subject herself.

Vella Family Portrait

Following the exhibition Wiċċ Imb Wiċċ held in April 2021, a dear friend came around requesting a family portrait that would imitate the style. The portrait features the husband, wife, daughter, grandmother, grandfather and dog. It reflects upon, story-tells and uncovers the terminology of family by giving an ephemeral form to all the intergenerational and interracial facets that make up that which we call family.

Daphne

Mizzi never endorsed Caruana Galizia’s journalism, especially due to statements deemed offensive by Maltese individuals with a leftist political philosophy. This sentiment was shared by many. While some, including the artist, opted to boycott her blog, others targeted the journalist with harsh comments and even demonization.

When the events of October 16th unfolded, some were not surprised while others were shocked. The artist remembers being at work at the Valletta 2018 Foundation when the news broke. Most colleagues present at the office were horrified, but some were almost relieved.

This artwork created in 2021, symbolises the deep-seated divisions within Maltese society. In the wake of Caruana Galizia’s brutal murder, many people in Malta were sharply divided over their opinions of her and her work, with some celebrating her death as the end of a supposed “the witch from Bidnija,” while others saw it as a tragic example of a society that has lost its moral compass.

The artwork, with its sharp cut that seems to tear Caruana Galizia apart, reflects the stark divide between these two groups. For some, the cut represents a victory over a perceived enemy, while for others, it is a painful reminder of the violence and hatred that has torn their society apart.

Despite its potent symbolism, the artwork failed to attract any buyers when it was auctioned off at the 2021 Malta Community Chest Fund Foundation online art auction. Nevertheless, it has since gained international recognition and was featured in a 2022 documentary about Malta’s contemporary issues titled “Malta: Small islands, big issues for Europe” by France 24. The documentary is presented by France 24’s European affairs editor Catherine Nicholson, produced by Johan Bodin, filmed on location by Stéphane Bodin, with Luke Brown.

In December 2022, the artwork also received a certificate of artistic achievement in the Luxembourg Art Prize 2022, underscoring its significance as a poignant commentary on the challenges facing Maltese society today.

In October 2023, Mizzi bestowed ‘Daphne’ upon the Office of the President of the European Parliament in Strasbourg, where it became part of the permanent collection.

Il Maestro

Last Tuesday one of the greatest artists the world had the pleasure to host passed to the next phase of the existence he contemplated through every breath on this earth. Following my impromptu writing to salute the life of this immortal genius, here is a visual tribute to Franco Battiato’s inspiring soul. It is a unique edition print. Bursting warm colours represent Battiato’s thirst for the Truth. He transpired passion and creativity though his art and acted as a public testimonial for the Truth in this alienated society. Thank you maestro. May we all listen.

WIĊĊ IMB WIĊĊ – Fading Social Distancing

In the course of dialogues with curator Melanie Erixon in the year 2020, the notion of revisiting a previous research venture resurfaced. This particular concept, initially explored during my tenure at the University of Malta, entailed the construction of digital portraits composed of multiple layers depicting the same visage. However, this time around, Ms. Erixon proposed a captivating twist – infusing the concept with the disruptive essence of the relentless Covid-19 pandemic. The stringent limitations imposed upon our social fabric and individual realities have undeniably reshaped our lives in profound and far-reaching ways. This unprecedented crisis, with its transformative power, has irrevocably altered our very manner of existence—how we nourish ourselves, how we forge connections, how we experience intimacy, how we breathe life into our senses as innately human beings. As actors thrust onto the stage of this turbulent saga, we find ourselves confronted with the audacious demand to sever our ties, to renounce our very humanity. In the midst of such turmoil, our collective and personal identities are shaken to their core, leaving us adrift in a sea of doubt.

In the past week, I have had the privilege of engaging in a profound exchange of reflections regarding this artistic endeavor with my esteemed confidant and expert in the field of social sciences, Dr Alex Grech. It was he who eloquently reminded me of the prevailing entrapment that befalls many in our present era—the pervasive allure and ensnarement within the digital realms of social media platforms: “We are dependent on their affordances to navigate our sociality and mediate our identities. In our love affair with Silicon Valley, we have gone from the early innocence of private horizontal exchanges with those we know in the offline world to the spectacle of online performance: we watch, lurk, comment, troll, cancel, share and wait for others to acknowledge our existence. We are all in this together – including those who watch over us and harvest our data for their private means. In the process, we explore, destroy and renew our personas, from completely anonymous  to the mundanely familiar.”

The inception of The (Facebook) Portrait Project II – Fading Social Distancing Facebook group marked a pivotal moment on Sunday, 27th December 2020, as an invitation was extended to individuals from various corners of the world. This call beckoned them to engage in a profound social experiment centered around the concept of collective portraiture, symbolically capturing the universal yearning for connection. Within this virtual gathering, the boundaries between the personal and the public realms blurred, presenting a striking juxtaposition.

By the designated end-of-year deadline, an impressive total of 363 individuals, both directly and indirectly invited, heeded the call and participated in this endeavor. As a testament to their collective contribution, a distinctive ‘portrait’ was crafted for every group of ten consecutive members, achieved through the ingenious re-appropriation of their respective Facebook profile pictures. Subsequently, participants were encouraged to utilize the platform provided by the group, sharing their reflections and reactions on the subjects of social distancing and the innate human longing for physical closeness. This collective dialogue served to illuminate the prevailing atmosphere that governs our shared human experience.

All thirty-seven intricately woven portraits were meticulously reproduced onto aluminum dibond, forming the centerpiece of my eagerly anticipated third solo exhibition at Il-Kamra ta’ Fuq in Mqabba, with the unveiling scheduled for the date of April 17th.

Alex was intrigued with participants agreeing to share and redefine their own identity with the artist and others: “The pandemic has forced us to remove the final vestige of humanity in the offline world and into social distancing. We are slowly being deprived of our seven basic senses, for our own good. We are masked and yet connected, peering into our screens, trying make sense of what we are, and what we may yet become. Our lives are disrupted, but social media will yet be our salvation and keep us safe from ourselves and unknown others. Won’t it?”

As an undercurrent of narcissism pervades, prompting many to seek validation and a sense of belonging within the collective, this endeavor delves into a profound exploration of the self, transcending the idealized perception we hold of ourselves. Within the unsettling amalgamation of the collective, identities become blurred or even completely obscured. Each artwork poses the fundamental questions: “Who are you? Who are we? What is unfolding within us?” The monumental challenge lies in finding coherence amidst this intricate tapestry and discerning the ultimate beneficiary of our unwavering dedication to this pursuit.

The exhibition WIĊĊ IMB WIĊĊ will be open at Il-Kamra ta’ Fuq between April 27 and May 18 and can be visited strictly by appointment. You can make a booking or purchase an artwork by sending an email to info@artsweven.com or contact Art Sweven, Il-Kamra ta’ Fuq or the artist on info@pawlumizzi.com. All artworks are limited edition of three and selling at €125.

WIĊĊ IMB WIĊĊ is being curated by Melanie Erixon from Artsweven.

 


External Links

25 April 2021 – The intimacy among strangers – Joseph Agius, Times of Malta

22 April 2021 – Interview for Illum ma’ Steph

16 April 2021 – Interview for Meander

7 April 2021 – Interview for Maltarti

30 December 2020 – A social exercise of portrait creation, The Times of Malta

Live Exhibition walk through by ARTZ ID