Busy is good | Sam Sultana

We speak to young painter Sam Sultana who, fresh from participating at the Divergent Thinkers 2 exhibition as St James Cavalier with Izaxa collective, will now be turning his Zebbug-based studio into an exhibition space to present ‘Fluxus’, starting on December 13.

Sam Sultana.
Sam Sultana.

"I was raised surrounded by the atmosphere of experimentation and construction, both my parents are creative people and thus I do not recall a particular moment of realisation. I was definitely in the right context to develop my creative vision.

"It was my mum who brought me into the world of creation. This was my first language. Being a mother was her major trip and priority in life, documenting her children growing up was her joy. As a result of that, I am lucky enough to have a whole wardrobe dedicated to my evolution from birth.

"She used to sit us down on the kitchen table (the largest surface in the house) and cover the tabletop with some plastic or newspaper. She then used to bring out all the tools and materials and both my brother and I would spend ages exploring. She would ask us what we were doing and drawing and write it down at the back of the picture. Looking back on it, there's some crazy descriptions!

"These memories are the most vivid times of my childhood, with impressions of incredible travels and great feats accomplished.

"I have encountered a number of exotic characters and situations throughout my travels that have contributed to my evolution and carved my identity. We are to a degree an amalgamation of others. The important thing is to be open to experience and step away from our well-defined ego.

"Everything is in flux; I look at the same things differently and from different angles as new experience mutates me. Chaos is the only constant.

"All experience somehow finds its way into my work, yet I do not tend to do it in any conscious manner: it surfaces. I don't always realise it there and then. Sometimes it takes a while to make sense.

"I have spent around 3 years in the UK. Just under two of those years were spent in an educational context. First at Kingston University (London), followed by the University for the Creative Arts Canterbury, working on my Masters in Fine Arts. This was the educational context I was yearning for and could not receive in Malta: a perfect blend of practice and theory.

"The course turned out to be a very liberating experience, where I was given immense freedom in a peaceful atmosphere, with excellent guidance from tutors. By the end of this tremendous exploration I had gained a great deal of insight and momentum.

"The third year was spent in Bristol, living and working with an art collective. It was an experiment in which five people left their homes permanently in order to start a fresh life in art. The concept was to exist exclusively in a newly created and undefined flux driven environment.

"Part of this transition manifested into the squatter life: the good, the bad and the ugly... being there, I had the opportunity to organise, and be hosted in a number of shows and exhibitions in different venues and galleries.

"Over time, living in such context and conditions, although incredibly enriching, took its toll on my spirit. It became stressful, and every day life issues took over the focus I wished to dedicate to my work. A number of things that led me to move back to Malta - it just felt right, and I do not regret my decision. I made a long-term, calculated strategy for what I consider to be success.

"As for the art scene in Malta, there are many problematic aspects, and we continuously self-criticise - which is good! We are self aware, and in want of change... talking about it is important; yet it is the doing which is the essential bit.

"You don't hear this kind of talk abroad. If you don't like the place, you move elsewhere. Considering the fact that we are an island, the energy does not diffuse - it remains concentrated and localised. We are delimited and defined by the sea, which is a great advantage when it comes to networking and knowing who is doing what and what's going on. The geography has defined our psychology. We feel suppressed by the vastness of the outside world. We feel like we have to prove ourselves. We have an inferiority complex, which translates into a hungry thriving spirit.

"The Divergent Thinkers exhibition was a great context to discover, network and work alongside other Maltese artists. It was another great opportunity for the collective I work with - Izaxa - to conceive something fresh.

"Izaxa is made up of people with a strong vision and who come from different academic and career backgrounds in order to network and diverge. This unique marriage of practices allows for a multidimensional approach to different concepts, problems and projects otherwise out of reach of any one individual member.

"Fluxus will be my first solo show held at my new base studio/gallery in Zebbug. Although I have had artwork around in different galleries and shows in Malta, I hope that this event will serve as the true introduction to the world I wish to introduce the public to. The audience will have the opportunity to be surrounded by and be immersed inside an abundantly turbulent atmosphere, bursting at the seams with vibrant and explosive colour.

"I hope to sink into the tranquil and undisturbed environment that the Zebbug outskirts have to offer. This will allow me to concentrate and focus wholly on my work: providing dedication and discipline.

"I would also like to use the studio/gallery as an open experimental environment to continue collaborating with other artists, which I find incredibly enriching; so to anyone interested: please do not hesitate to contact me with ideas.

"I have another show in the works with Izaxa, which will be held at St John the Baptist Church, Bristol, which we are all very excited about.

"I have plans to send work to Paris and I also am planning a show at the Brick Lane Gallery in London, amongst other shows lined up in Malta. Busy is good."

 Fluxus will be on display at Off Road Studio, G. Pullicino Street, Zebbug from December 13-23. For more information log on to the artist's website.