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Art off the mainstream grid | Ryan Falzon

Ahead of the collective exhibition ‘A Junction’, we speak to Ryan Falzon about the group of young artists who are slowly but surely turning the Xarolla Windmill in Zurrieq into an alternative exhibition space.

teodor_reljic
Teodor Reljic
28 January 2015, 8:30am
Ryan Falzon:
Ryan Falzon: "The space caters mostly for emerging artists who feel the need to share their works and thoughts on an informal level with other artists, while generating new works and expanding their horizons."
Ryan Falzon:
Ryan Falzon: "The Maltese art scene doesn’t know its modern roots, due to the fact that the modern Maltese masterpieces are currently in storage."
How would you describe this ‘studio project’? What is its history, and what are some of the common themes and artistic preoccupations that the artists assembled within it share?

The open studio project started in March 2013, when Sabrina Calleja Jackson and myself approached the Zurrieq Local Council for a space to use as an open studio and exhibition area. The space caters mostly for emerging artists who feel the need to share their works and thoughts on an informal level with other artists, while generating new works and expanding their horizons. Most often, discussions revolved around the art scene in Malta and abroad, and particular topics or concepts that are tackled at the moment by the resident artists.

The idea of an open studio also serves to create a dialogue between the artists working on site and visitors, who either come specifically to meet the artists, or came to visit the Xarolla Windmill itself, which also a tourist attraction. This engagement helps the artists to reach one of their main aims: that of introducing art in communities.

This isn’t the first time members of this group – loosely speaking – have exhibited in Zurrieq. What attracts you to this space?

First and foremost, we are interested in exhibiting in spaces which are off-centre and away from locations synonymous with art exhibitions and performances. When we first started to work at the location, a few people expressed their concern that it would be difficult to attract an audience, but so far they have been proven wrong.

From such a project, I believe that there is a demand for events happening all over the island. Also, most of the members of the group are from Zurrieq and other locations in the south, so there is a personal attachment and relation to the space, and area.

Do you think young artists can eventually be professionalised in Malta?

There are various opportunities for emerging artists in the form of funds and exhibitions aimed for young artists, but there are several drawbacks that make it difficult for a young artist to become a professional and be able to live exclusively off his art. A major drawback is the lack of a professional gallery system. I believe that, although there has been an improvement, we are still far from having young, professional artists in Malta.

How would you describe the local arts scene?

I would say that lately, there have been initiatives and exhibitions that really set my hopes high regarding the local art scene. The excuse of the local art scene being behind foreign scenes is passe, due to the instant, vast exposure of ideas from all over the world with the use of technology.

Sometimes, I do feel a general lack of challenging, innovative expressions of art that challenge the notions of art. It is also a scene that doesn’t know its modern roots, due to the fact that the modern Maltese masterpieces are currently in storage and not accessible to the public. Huge effort is being done by Maltese artists – as well as foreigners residing here – but I do feel that this should be balanced by good foreign exhibitions, especially exhibitions by well-known artists.

A Junction will open on January 30 at 19:30, at Xarolla Windmill, Zurrieq. Participating artists include Gabriel Buttigieg, Sabrina Calleja Jackson, Fabio D’Amato, Ryan Falzon, Sarah Mamo, Sarah Maria Scicluna, Robert Zahra and Andrea Zerafa

teodor_reljic
Teodor Reljic is MaltaToday's culture editor and film critic. He joined t...
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