Julien Vinet’s homage to ‘Mediterranean underdogs of Malta’ on display at R Gallery

French artist Julien Vinet’s latest exhibition Error Code 8003, will run until 31 October

French artist Julien Vinet's latest exhibition, Error 8003 at R Gallery in Sliema, is an "ode to imperfection", as well as an homage to the Mediterranean underdogs of Malta. 

In Error 8003, Vinet offers a visceral challenge to ideas of what can be beautiful and what cannot be. Vinet's textures, shapes, compositions and mixtures invite onlookers to engage in imaginative meditation, thereby rediscovering the functions and functionalities of reused objects, sublimating the subject-object.

Vinet is a visual artist currently based in Malta. His works depict his obsession with contrasts in people's daily life as much as the need to renege on the alienating idea of "true" in society or nature. MaltaToday caught up with Vinet to talk about his latest exhibition, Error 8003 and what people can expect if they choose to visit the gallery. 

You describe this exhibition as an "ode to imperfection." What does imperfection mean to you, and what do you hope to express and achieve through this exhibition? 

Imperfection, for me, is an expression of life. For example, there is the Japanese concept of Wabi-sabi; they believe that to create a perfect object, there must be imperfection, as perfection is something that is mechanical. If we look at an old Japanese tea ceremony, there must be an imperfection in order to have life, as perfection is uninteresting and does not catch the eye. It is the imperfection that is going to bring interest to the artwork. That imperfection is going to catch your attention, such as, for example, Pjanci I and II in this exhibition. Cooking trays, all of which are in an almost squarish shape – these objects have been mistreated all their life, in the sense that no one ever looked at them thinking they could be beautiful. 

Those trays have been used and thrown on the floor; people would look at them as greasy, ugly, and smelly. Those imperfections; are the story; that's what's going to catch your eye and make you interested. When you put the trays together, the borders will be crooked; making a perfect shape is impossible. There will always be space between them. It's because of the crookedness that these spaces are so interesting. If I had found new trays, I would never have put them next to each other, as there would have been no imperfection; and no story to tell. 

You have been living in Malta for almost a decade now. Can you tell us how living on the island has influenced your work?

The Maltese light has definitely influenced me; it has always been fascinating to me. My most recent body of work is a homage to the working class that has made this country what it is. Maltese culture is something that I highly appreciate. I sincerely want to give homage to the Maltese people. The idea of the art gallery is to establish contact and a conversation with the local people. In the gallery you have four rooms, in the first room both Pjanci I and II are exhibited, they are big, people can see them from the street. Those pieces are actually really creating a conversation with people who start looking at them. 

You have those people who have a direct memory of those trays when they were children. So, people are really linked to my works; when people enter my exhibition, the conversation starts immediately because you have something that speaks to them. It’s something almost everyone has; if you have an oven, you have a cooking tray. Obviously, the cooking trays in this exhibit are used, they are all different, but they all cook the same thing. It’s like in an orchestra, where you have different instruments that are coming together to make a complete piece. In this exhibit, every tray is different and brings a type of harmony, and by putting that in front of people’s eyes, they speak. Having them as the main pieces of the show is my way of recreating a discussion with the local people.

Take us behind the curtain… can you explain the process you went through to create this exhibition? Are they pieces from different years; brought together, or were they all created with this specific exhibition in mind? 

The works were made during COVID-19 and after during a residency. My body of work at the moment uses imperfections in objects (used.) I started Pjanci I and II during COVID because I had a friend whose sister's shop closed, and because of that, he had all these objects stored in his garage. That's when I saw the trays; the inspiration came to me. This year I also attended a residency, where I couldn't bring all my equipment, so naturally, I had to use objects that I found there. So, the pieces in this exhibit were made in 2021 and 2022, but the residency especially brought something new, as it's where I started using an element which can be seen in my works, fungus. 

One piece is called In Accordance with the Specifications; the name is derived from a floorplan I found in a factory. Stamped on it was "in accordance with the specifications," a term I find meaningless because I don't believe that art has any specifications. I used the mechanical elements on the floorplan to create something that was less mechanical and more organic; I also put a black fungus called torula in the ink - this fungus needs alcohol to live; without it, it dies. So, I mixed the fungus with ink; I put alcohol all over the paper, which gave it an orange/brown colour. Because of the ink, the fungus has started to grow; it will eventually take over the whole paper until it's all black, but as soon as there is no more alcohol because the fungus has consumed it, then the fungus will fall off, and you will come back to the original piece. And it gives the idea of a life cycle into an artwork.  

R Gallery is located on 26, Triq Tigne and opens between Tuesday and Saturday. The current show, Error Code 8003 runs until 31 October.