On the 14th July 2017 the Malta Arts Festival hosted an amazing performance at Fort St.Elmo. Ultima Vez gave us 'In Spite of Wishing and Wanting', a world acclaimed piece by chroeographer Wim Vandekeybus. Powerful in its sheer energy and drama, the all-male troupe explored "fear, the desire for security and the dreadful magic of sleep". The music of David Byrne underpinned it all, and two short films added to the surreal atmosphere.
It's impossible to describe in words though - so here is a short YouTube clip to give you an idea...
I had asked to paint the performance because it sounded so unusual and dramatic, with some nudity and what seemed to be men flying in showers of feathers. I wasn't disappointed; the sheer physical energy and total focus took their bodies beyond human limits. I caught as much as I could - I was spellbound!
In May I organised two painting trips to Trapani in Sicily for my students. We really did a lot of work between us, and had a good time exploring some interesting sites ..... as well as feasting on fresh fish and local wines!
The cave has been inhabited since Palaeolithic times and in the 1800’s was turned into a small village by the Mangiapani family. Four family units lived there for 150 years until after the Second World War, when most of the inhabitants emigrated.
The Di Rosario family continued to live there, using it as a large stable and store.
In 1982, destroyed by the animals and quite derelict,a group of young people from Custonaci decided to restore the place and hold an annual Live Crib in the cave. It took years to restore the abandoned buildings and surrounding areas. They sourced examples of traditional tools and wares, and it is now a kind of living museum, with animals in the pens and the rooms displaying various crafts such as the making of barrels, clothes, puppets, carts, and food.
The photos above were all (brilliantly) taken by Melanie Geraghty
It was all very well done and we had a great time exploring before we settled down to paint.
It’s a challenge to draw such a massive cliff and keep the sense of scale and perspective –
I’m not sure how well I managed but it was fun trying.
My visit with the second group was on a Sunday and we were overrun by about 50 motorbikers obviously on a Tour, and we were all entertained by a group of traditional singers in local costume..... they did kind of disrupt our painting, but they offered to share their wine with us, so we forgave them !!
I couldn't help thinking that Malta has so many locations that could take this idea and restore interesting but currently derelict areas.
Close to where I live, the old village of Manikata "Razzett tal-Qasam" has been very well restored and preserved by the local farmers (see Koperattiva Rurali Manikata ) but there are many once-inhabited caves in the area that could be used in a similar way to the Sicilian one - even a Living Crib! Just an idea....
So, just to catch up with what's going on in my life at the moment...
Last Thursday, the 16th February, saw the launch of the project "Forgotten Landscapes" curated and organised by Mark Magro assisted by Kristina Quintano. Mark chose four abandoned locations in Malta and asked four artists to work in them. He chose Marika Borg, Mark Mallia, Caroline Said Lawrence and myself. He documented our progress in film and words, producing a book and a feature film from the experiences we shared.
I produced four large (70 x 50cms) pastel works on embossed paper working in the enigmatic dereliction of Fort Cambell, the last fort build by the British at the end of WW2. Its fabulous location overlooking the intense blue of the sea and Malta's wild northern coast made its abandonment feel even more intense.....
The exhibition is at St James' Centre for Creativity in Valletta until 2nd April. The paintings were not for sale at the opening because it was a funded project, but they will now be sold in aid of Dementia Research, a subject close to many of our hearts as so many of our loved ones wander into their own forgotten landscapes. Please contact Kristina for details.
Meanwhile, I'm experimenting with textural surfaces in my work, and encouraging my students at Villa Bologna to do the same on Friday mornings
Today the Painting in the Park classes begin - Sunday afternoons in and around the Majjistral Visitors Centre drawing, painting and generally having a creative time together.
In March I will be running a Crash Course in Drawing Skills - three classes to get you going! They will also be held at the Majjistral Centre on Wednesday mornings from 10am - 12.30pm on the 8th, 15th and 29th March.
I'm also planning to start a life class on Tuesday evenings at the Centre, but more of that another time!
I am looking forward to two painting holidays in May. We are going to Trapani again; I think we only scratched the surface of the endless locations last time!
May also sees the first Malta Art Fair in aid of ALS. I will be taking part by remote control as I will be away in Sicily.
In between all that I will be playing happily in my studio or out in a field somewhere splashing paint around.... and also obsessing about my latest Big Idea which isn't really painting or drawing at all. If it works, I will tell you all about it.
If it doesn't, well ssssssssh !!
Please contact me for more details of classes or paintings
Ronnie somehow managed to round up a contingent of locals to be our guinea pigs and BBC stars, and the week began. I have to say it wasn’t easy; being asked to repeat myself with my palette held higher, or find a good view in the director’s choice of venue really was a challenge at times. Anika had just finished a 3 year degree course in Fine Arts using oils, and found watercolours a difficult transition.
The programme was a huge success for us, and launched Malta Art with hundreds of bookings.
For me it was a baptism of fire, and I have never really been nervous in front of cameras, groups of students or in interviews since. If I survived that, nothing else could be as nerve wracking!
It was a very interesting experience though. There was only one cameraman and to film us riding into Mdina on a horse-drawn Karozzin we had to circle the town and go through the iconic stone gate at least four times. Once to film us from the back as we entered the gate, once close up as we went into it, once as we emerged on the other side, and again as we continued over the cobblestones into the town. Ouch. I remember that when watching TV reality films – nothing is as simple as the editing would have us believe!
The whole area was declared a National Park in 2007 after plans for a golf course were defeated by public outcry. The land was turned over to the governance of three NGO’s; Din l-Art Helwa, Nature Trust Malta and the Gaia Foundation.
The barracks themselves date back to the early 20th century and became Government property about 40 years ago. They have been allowed to fall into dereliction, but one of the ambitious plans that the Majjistral Park would like to oversee is the rehabilitation of these fine examples of British military architecture. The officer’s quarters are earmarked for short lets, the barracks themselves for nature labs for research and education, a cafeteria and activity centres. Support is needed to begin this process, as any funding needs to be met by 20% of the requested amount. This would be a investment in a unique swathe of public land and heritage, to be enjoyed for generations to come.
On the 3rd December Sammy Vella, Director of the Park, will be giving an informative and entertaining talk on the healing properties of plants and herbs at 10am, followed by a guided walk in the park. Again, we are asking for a 10 euro donation. For more details please call the Centre on 21521291 during office hours.
Come and discover the Park!
We spent our first afternoon exploring Trapani - which is full of paintable delights, from baroque buildings, typical Italian architecture, a very active fish market, forts, castles and ooooh endless subjects!
Giovanni recommended our itinerary and I have to thank him for choosing some perfect locations.
On our first morning we went up to the Medieval walled city of Erice, high above Trapani. We had a wonderful day painting there.
On the second day we went off to the salt pans, first the ones nearby Trapani, and then further afield to Marsala. The piles of salt and the windmills were a good subject to practice limited pallette paintings on. Some went on a boat trip around the pans in the afternoon, but the rest of us carried on painting into the setting sun!
Next day we took a hydrofoil to the islands, stopping for the day in Levanso which is absolutely charming. Just a small village clustered around the dock.
I love to paint - and draw - and help others to discover their creative side too.....
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