Rinsing the psyche clean of gender neuroses | Emma Fsadni

Artist Emma Fsadni speaks to TEODOR RELJIC ahead of her participation in Art+Feminism at Spazju Kreattiv, Valletta – the Maltese offshoot of an international string of art activities related to a global Wikipedia edit-a-thon that seeks to bolster the representation of female artists on the globally recognised online encyclopaedia

Emma Fsadni, Photo credit: Matt Thompson
Emma Fsadni, Photo credit: Matt Thompson

Could you tell us a little bit about your personal trajectory as an artist, what spurs you on to create and what some of your ongoing thematic and stylistic obsessions are?

I have always been intrigued by art’s boundless conceptual, aesthetic, and experiential potentiality. I take to art almost like a form of constructive uncertainty, which, in process, results in a greater sense of personal clarity. I find myself viewing daily happenings beyond that presented at surface level. When immersed in the creative process, my concept of time is lost, a flow of energy and simultaneous stillness comes over me, it’s a grounding sensation which I willingly revisit whenever I can.

Most of my work tends to stem from a certain emotion or thought that would be surfacing during that particular period of time. Currently, I find myself gravitating towards observations and conflicts surrounding themes such as habits, perception, conditioning, and social conformity. In terms of style, it partially depends on the intent I would have for the work itself. That being said, a constant component is my minimalistic approach, both in materiality and aesthetic. I lean towards this simplification as a means to counterbalance external and conceptual complexities, both for myself and the viewer. My work typically takes form through series; I would say this is very much tied to the comfort I find in sequence, routine and repetition.

What are some of the most important lessons you’ve learned throughout your artistic training, and how do you continue to apply them to this day?

The most impactful lessons learnt were those that focused on exploration rather than specific techniques and rules. A fundamental practice that I acquired during my Fine Art degree, is giving attention to the preliminary acts for which a project may later develop from – that is, taking time to critically reflect, write and explore certain concepts, aesthetics or waves of intuition. Such consideration is the foundation of what most of my work builds upon, those moments of ‘stillness’ in a day are great for this. Then I would say establishing and maintaining a sense of connection towards one’s artistic practice, to ensure it is never left feeling foreign.

What can you tell us about your contribution to the upcoming Art + Feminism exhibit at Spazju Kreattiv? How does it feel to form part of such an initiative, and what do you think it contributes to the current cultural climate in Malta?

‘Rinse’ – the body of work to be exhibited, thematically originated from the limitations society imposes surrounding gender and its relative associations, expectations, and conditions. Society has felt the need to gender anything and everything and, whether consciously or not, many individuals live their lives in a state of trigger or conflict surrounding such gender-specific influences.

‘Rinse’ is an aesthetic and conceptualised rinsing of these accumulated thoughts, roles, and conditions, which have been imprinted in one’s understanding of an individualised and collective concept of identity. Participating in the Art + Feminism exhibition prompted me to revisit my views on feminism. In my opinion, feminism is equality for all genders and not something that should discriminate between one gender and another. It is a dynamic concept that continues to evolve with society as a whole. Initiatives like this exhibition contribute to keeping this evolution going, offering the opportunity to a diverse group of creatives to publicly present alternative perspectives on such a subject.

What do you make of the local visual arts scene? What would you change about it?

I think the local art scene has definitely improved over the past few years with a number of initiatives slowly coming to fruition. I recently started working at Valletta Contemporary so I may be slightly biased as my surroundings are very much immersed in it all. This being said, when comparing Malta to the activity and diversity abroad, there is still room for further development. Something which I would maybe like to see more of, rather than change, are communal spaces that not only exhibit visual art, but also provide a space for conversation, connectivity and contemplation – this could be something as simple as a creative-oriented cafe.

What’s next for you?

Artistically speaking, I am currently taking part in Artitivisti, which is a year long funded programme organised by Arts Council Malta and Aġenzija Żgħażagħ. The programme combines creative practice and activism, with the intent to impact society through art. The project is still at its formative stages, however, alongside my mentor, Margerita Pule, I am excited to see how my working concept will develop, it’s been quite a revealing process till now.

Apart from that, on my website, I recently launched a series of illustrative limited edition fine art prints under the primary title REPOSE. As the title suggests, they are done in my downtime and are more instantaneous compared to my other work. I approach the act of drawing without any preconceived notions of what visual will result, which is personally rather refreshing. I want to continue growing the series and watch it develop organically. Those are my main focuses for the time being, however, I remain open to other potential opportunities and collaborations.

Art+Feminism will be on display at Spazju Kreattiv, Valletta from February 7 to April 5. The exhibition is curated by Toni Sant. Emma Fsadni will be displaying her works alongside fellow artists Mirjana Batinić, Debbie Caruana Dingli, Oksana Chepelyk, Therese Debono, Anna Grima, Gloria Oyarzabal and Enrique Tabone. A curator’s tour will be given on March 6 at 3pm and March 8 at 10.30am