Bursting through the shell | Meeting MCAST's Fine Arts students

Following the MCAST Fine Arts students end-of-year exhibition – this year entitled ‘Leave a Mark’ – TEODOR RELJIC speaks to their students about their progress through the course, and how they plan to develop their work and aesthetic in the future. This week, he speaks to Joanna Portelli and Marlon Chircop

Joanna Portelli favours a cinematic and voyeuristic approach
Joanna Portelli favours a cinematic and voyeuristic approach

When did you first decide to pursue the visual arts, and how did you first set about following this passion?

Joanna Portelli: I do not recall a precise point in time where I took a decision on it, because there was never any question as to whether I should choose to pursue the visual arts or not. It was more of an inclination, really.

Marlon Chircop: I chose art as one of my subjects in secondary school because I wanted to try something new. As soon as I started taking art lessons, I fell in love with the way that I could project my ideas and thoughts onto a piece of paper and I have never looked back. Four years ago, I decided to continue my studies at MCAST.

How would you describe your experience at MCAST, and how has it affected your progress as an artist?

Joanna Portelli: I would sum it up as challenging. Sometimes I reach the conclusion that if I am still a student there, then I must really want to graduate as a fine artist. I am obsessed with self-development, which to me is one and the same as artistic development, so I also have a tendency of challenging myself with the projects I take on. These challenges, whether set up by myself or provided opportunity, all contribute to my progress by making me less naïve and more motivated and confident in giving voice to my opinions through my art.

I do not only mean technical challenges… sometimes, communicating with others is a challenge in itself, but this is also something I find interesting because it makes me appreciate the potential for misunderstanding or different ways of understanding – something my art is often influenced by: as is very much the case with the series I’ve exhibited for Leave a Mark.

Other than that, MCAST has given me the opportunity to meet some great teachers whose passion and intellect I could never take for granted.

Marlon Chircop: The experience at MCAST is great. Here, I have the opportunity to explore new media and techniques which I never thought to use before, such as printmaking, installation and sculpture. The freedom of exploring new concepts, with good guidance from our tutors, allows me to get closer into finding artistic self.

Using humour, Marlon Chircop comments on media manipulation and propaganda
Using humour, Marlon Chircop comments on media manipulation and propaganda
Joanna Portelli
Joanna Portelli
Marlon Chircop
Marlon Chircop

Could you speak about your contribution to Leave a Mark? How did you interpret the brief, and what do you hope to express with the work you’ve presented?

Joanna Portelli: The work produced for the exhibition was assigned through a brief which left us at liberty to explore and develop a personal artistic identity through any theme and medium. We were introduced to the main themes of contemporary art and encouraged to select one or two as a starting point.

The themes all sparked my interest, but I mostly gravitated towards Identity and The Body, observing the inevitable relationship between the two. I suspect it’s because the human embodied state has been the underpinning subject to most of my recent projects and research. I also drew inspiration from cinema after developing a habit of taking snapshots of scenes in film which I found visually striking due to their air of tension and suspense. There is an element of theatre and voyeurism, but I’ll keep this short and provide my artists statement in answer to the question:

‘This series, inspired by cinema, is presented in an unclear chronology, revealing something without its contextual background and opening a permeable space for assumption to circulate. It is ambiguous in the same way an individual’s identity is: never clear enough from one single angle; yet more and more enigmatic over a number of frames.’

Marlon Chircop: I believe that all the students that participated in the exhibition left their mark not only in the history of the institute, but also in the local art sector, because we are the budding artists of today. I interpreted the brief as a journey in finding my identity in art, while expressing myself in a way that reflects my personality.

The work I presented is not only about how media can be manipulated for propaganda purposes but also as a comment about Maltese traditions and how good artistic concepts can be expressed in a humorous way.

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