Please, be seated

A new collective exhibition at St James Cavalier - His Chair - will be launched on September 24

While sitting down is the epitome of relaxation (think Buddha), the act can also be extremely dramatic (think every stately painting of kings and queens throughout history). A chair used for artistic purposes is therefore an instantly intriguing proposition. The 17th century poet George Herbert, in ‘The Pilgrimage’, used the image of the chair as a way to demystify death, offering an anti-climax at the end of his protagonist’s journey with: ‘After so foul a journey death is fair/And but a chair.’

And it is a chair-based poem by local artist Nicole Cushcieri that propels ‘His Chair’, a multimedia collaborative exhibition held at St James Cavalier from September 24 until October 16, in celebration of the venue’s 10th anniversary. Cushcieri, who will also be curating and participating in the exhibition, has gathered together an impressive artistic team, resulting in varying interpretations on the poem about love, absence and obsession. Using photography, video, animation, soundscapes, sculpture and dance, the artists will display interactive and innovative displays that will take the audience on a personal journey through the different worlds they have created.

“I wrote the poem about a year ago, when a friend had an old chair in his house that he saw potential in, and asked me to create something inspired by this chair,” Cuschieri says.

“I then created a scene in my head of a writer who sat in his chair day and night writing. One day, he passes away, and the poem is written from the perspective of his lover, who feels his absence so strongly that she becomes obsessed with his chair, as it is her only attachment to him. She never leaves his chair, until she eventually dies in it.”

Apart from Cushcieri herself – who will be exhibiting video art about a ballet dancer struggling with two opposing states of mind – the exhibition includes six other artists: Matthew Grima Conell, Elisa Von Brockdorff, Kenneth Borg, Aldo Cauchi Savona, Maria Bravo and Christine Cutajar.

Photographer Cauchi Savona will be creating a “dark and earthly creature”, he teases, that “is based on the philosophical notion that thoughts become ‘alive’, in a certain sense, from the moment we actively think about them,” while fellow photographer Borg, inspired by the “lack of a happy ending” in the poem and aided by music provided by Sylvan Borg, will be creating a triptych showing a process of grieving. The exhibition will also feature international talent, as Spanish filmmaker Mary Bravo presents a short film about “The poem makes me think about what people have inside, how this things affect and impact in us. In an individual way, what we have inside is what matters, it is what we give to others, it is what inspires us,” Bravo says.

Collaborating with sound engineer Noel Zammit, Matthew Grima Connell brings to life the audiovisual hallucinations of a heartbroken widow. Inspired by the dark and quirky works of Tim Burton, Rodney Matthew, Dylan Cole and Bobby Chiu, Grima Connell will be trying “to take the audience literally into the life of a widow and make them experience the stages of grief she goes through after the loss of her husband.”

Elisa Von Brockdorff and Christine Cutajar will be taking care of all three dimensions. Von Brockdorff’s installation will tap into the artist’s love for “the process of construction,” as she is strongly inspired by “the coming together of different elements such as people, objects, colours, forms and space,” and will be exhibiting 3D objects made out of clay.  

Christine Cutajar exhibits a sculpture – a raw hand-made chair created out of dead tree branches – that invites the audience to interpret the various abstract photographs dancing around it. “Feeling very much connected to nature, I think this is a great opportunity for me to use natural and organic medium as the main material for the installation, while complimenting this with abstract-nature photography. I feel that this approach enables me to combine several aspects of myself as an artist,” Cutajar says.
So far from being a dry re-interpretation of a poem, the exhibition presents a rich array of aesthetic perspectives, showing focus but never a lack of variety. This is made possible, in part, by Cushcieri’s own loose approach to the exhibition into shape.

“I decided to give the exhibition a subtle sense of fun and adventure – where the audience are actively involved in the experience – by going inside spaces and actually experiencing the journey of the artist as opposed to experiencing it as a voyeur.”

Entrance is free and the opening times are from 09:00 till 17:00 on Monday and Tuesday and from 09:00 till 21:00 from Wednesday till Sunday. The exhibition is sponsored by: St James Cavalier Centre for Creativity, Malta Council for Culture & the Arts, Studio Seven, Marsovin Wines, Custom Lab, Blaze Productions.
For more information please call 79911200 or email [email protected]