Back
Register for SMS Alerts
or enter your details manually below...
First Name:
Last Name:
Email:
Password:
Hometown:
Birthday:
Sorry, we couldn't find that email.
Existing users
Email
Password
Sorry, we couldn't find those details.
Enter Email
Sorry, we couldn't find that email.

The heart of the matter | Victor Agius

As his latest exhibition gets underway at Spazju Kreattiv at St James Cavalier, Gozitan artist Victor Agius speaks to Teodor Reljic how ‘Consume’ deals with the way matter is taken and shaped by man from nature and modelled to suit his daily rituals

teodor_reljic
Teodor Reljic
10 May 2017, 9:18am
An accident led to Victor Agius’ artwork – originally set to be exhibited at Pjazza Teatru Rjal – to catch fire... which in turn led to ‘Consume’, which builds on the literal ashes of the aborted 2015 work
An accident led to Victor Agius’ artwork – originally set to be exhibited at Pjazza Teatru Rjal – to catch fire... which in turn led to ‘Consume’, which builds on the literal ashes of the aborted 2015 work
How did Consume first start stirring in your mind, and what were your initial ideas for the project like? 

The story started when I was commissioned to do an intervention at Pjazza Teatru Rjal in 2015. A large sculpture about 3 meters x 2.5 meters was being sculpted in expanded polystyrene at my studio in Gozo which was destined to be placed atop one of the columns of the theatre where once stood an intricate carved capital. 

While the work was still in process it accidentally caught fire and destroyed all the work. This traumatic experience and the leftovers that turned the yard into a black apocalypse of ashes and decayed matter left a huge impact on me. This narrative helped me understand that the work was still being developed. History shows that Teatru Rjal was destroyed by fire in 1873, rebuilt and then destroyed again by the WWII bombings. 

A second artwork was developed bearing traces of the accident and also with documentation presented to illustrate how the events unfolded. This public artwork was supposed to stay for 2 months but was removed after three days. All this narrative left me unable to communicate my artistic statement through this public artwork! The strong smell of the ashes, the way the fire ate my work, consumed it in matter of minutes and the manner it was removed were all starting points to this current project, which is curated by Irene Biolchini.

Consume appears to be based on a strongly philosophical conceptual dimension. What are some of the concepts you are engaging with for the exhibition, and how do you hope to distill them visually? 

Consume speaks of transformation of matter, decay of our everyday materials and objects and also how through time, nature and human consumption, earth and our environment are being consumed in quasi-ritualistic patterns. In this exhibition, for example, I am showing very different objects, such as: a piano, video art, ceramic pieces, an old bookcase, an 1873 lithograph and fragments of an old Baroque architecture. This ensemble of objects, in one way or another, speaks about how we consume both goods and mother earth.

Given the nature of a lot of your work, how would you describe your engagement with the physical environment of the Maltese Islands? 

My art practice relates very much with the environment, both in the way I use materials in installations, sculptures, paintings and other media and also in the way I relate to concepts that explore the physical environment on various levels. Gozo, where I live, helps immensely in my practice. In this exhibition, for the very first time, machine and industrial scenes enter my work, as in the case of the quarry. What is fundamental for me is to make clear that as the temples were part of my practice, nourishing the sculptures, in the same way the quarry is an integral part of the aesthetics and the nature of the exhibition.

A second artwork was developed bearing traces of the accident and also with documentation presented to illustrate how the events unfolded
A second artwork was developed bearing traces of the accident and also with documentation presented to illustrate how the events unfolded
What do you find worth exploring in it? On that note, how would you say Consume builds on your previous work? 

Recently, i.e. in the Layers project at St Agatha Catacombs (curated by Vince Briffa), I showed some ceramic prints on plates. In that case the prints were reproducing faces of famous artists and philosophers, in this exhibition, instead, I used the printing in order to reproduce my former work, the Kapitel. In this way the mechanical reproduction of the ceramic prints allows me to work upon a concept, the consumption of art and the souvenirs. So even if I am still working in ceramics, something that I did also at the beginning, now what I am interested in is the concept that I want to transmit rather than the form.

How do you feel about the exhibition forming part of VIVA? 

It is always good to be in such eclectic and high quality festival: It is challenging and exiting.

What kind of contribution would you say VIVA makes to the local visual arts scene?

VIVA from the start was a very much needed event for our capital which promotes collaborations between international and local practitioner, as in the case of the VIVA Curatorial School that was bringing a lot of international experts of the field.  

What do you make of the local visual arts scene? 

In the last years there is a growing community of local artists who are trained both at our university and internationally, but we still lack of a contemporary art museum and more support for artists. What we need is not only financial help, but a systematic action to involve people and to transmit to general public the basics of art appreciation. It would also be important to distribute energies so that to produce events with a good resonance, especially abroad. 

What would you change about it? What’s next for you?

I am taking part into two collective exhibitions in Malta by the end of this year: one is an international exhibition confronting contemporary artistic legacy both in Malta and Poland (which are two only apparently very different countries, which actually have many similarities) and which will be curated by Irene Biolchini and Marinella Paderni; the other is my second participation in the APS Mdina Cathedral Contemporary Art Biennale, under the artistic direction of Giuseppe Schembri Bonaci. 

History shows that Teatru Rjal was destroyed by fire in 1873, rebuilt and then destroyed again by the WWII bombings
History shows that Teatru Rjal was destroyed by fire in 1873, rebuilt and then destroyed again by the WWII bombings
Having been inaugurated yesterday, Consume will be exhibited at Space C1-C4 of Spazju Kreattiv at St James Cavalier, Valletta until June 11. The exhibition’s curator, Irene Biolchini, will be delivering a curator’s talk at the venue on May 20, 19:30. The exhibition forms part of the VIVA 2017 programme 

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