Remote experiences of tangible spaces | Adrian Scicluna

Artist Adrian Scicluna speaks to Teodor Reljic about his latest exhibition The Seated Traveller, whose thematic trajectory helps him explore how contemporary realities are shaping our perception of the geographical spaces we inhabit

Adrian Scicluna (Photo: Ruben Buhagiar)
Adrian Scicluna (Photo: Ruben Buhagiar)

How would you describe the trajectory of your work, and your personal style, over the years? Could you talk a bit about your studies and experiences of exhibiting your work outside of Malta, and how this has informed your work in the long run?

The ideas I am working on today actually kicked off in 2010. In 2011-2012 I was experimenting with my desire for tactility within a digital world. In 2012 I painted interpersonal relationships depicted in spaces varying from a virtual world to a fictitious place where people come together. The works sometimes included digital printing and acrylic and sometimes oil paint. In 2013, mixed media became an integral part of my process. 

Photography was manipulated digitally and transferred to canvas to give a tactile presence. Lone figures were painted seemingly both absent and present in a constructed world made up of various fragments of different places juxtaposed together. In 2014 I continued with the same artistic process but the figure was eventually removed and I focused more on the constructed world itself. Complex landscapes made of fragments of different places were dotted on the canvas. 

In 2015 I shifted to oil paint, graphite and ink and became interested in the notion of the posthuman language of algorithms within a landscape of data streams and remote sites attaching themselves to the data stream. In 2016 I started painting landscapes on top of each other unapologetically, as if going from one site to the other on the same canvas. These layers sometimes morph into one another. This process allowed me to think about not only spaces coming together but time being compressed too.

I completed a Masters degree in Fine Art at Wimbledon College of Art (University of the Arts London). Practice-based research, theory and professional development were the three main pillars of my degree. I got to know many international artists. Resources were abundant.

I have been exhibiting international for quite some time now. I was involved in a twinning project between the National Museum of Fine Arts, Valletta, Malta and the Museum of Art, Cluj-Napoca, Romania. I was then invited back to have a solo exhibition at the Museum of Fine Art in Romania. Straight after that, I joined two galleries – one in East London and the other in West London. This kept me extremely busy. I also had a number of invitations to exhibit internationally such as Athens, Singapore and Berlin. From 2014 I have been either pre-selected, shortlisted or a finalist in five international competitions: one in Miami, four in the UK (three of which were London-based). 

Even though it was all going really well I felt the need to take a break from all the deadlines. I started cutting back so I could have time to become immersed in my studio practice with fewer distractions. Which is why there are notable changes in my 2015 works and again in 2016. In 2015 I was invited to have a solo exhibition in Gozo and have been active locally again since then, although I continue to exhibit abroad.

The intense experience of working internationally influences me professionally. The international exposure brings opportunities of meeting interesting personalities from all walks of life. Since it’s a bigger market it is easier for me to find my own niche. The experience of travelling back and forth between Malta and other countries contributes to my interest of being in more spaces than one in a short period of time; which becomes integrated in my work.

‘Club Class’ by Adrian Scicluna (2014)
‘Club Class’ by Adrian Scicluna (2014)

How did your focus on spaces first come about? What triggered this motif for your work, and why do you find it such a rich and fascinating topic to explore?

The particularities of my interest in space, as a theme, are always evolving. I started focusing on space during my full time studies for a Masters Degree in Fine Arts in London. Living in London I became interested in orientation, navigation and surveillance as I was exploring the city. I would visit various places in London. I started to consider the loaded contexts of these sites (such as playgrounds, public transport stations and parks) from the perspective of surveillance and being the onlooker. 

I also became increasingly interested in online and offline interpersonal relationships. This interest was greatly influenced by my interaction on Skype with my family based in Malta.

I am fascinated with how communication technology has become such an integral part of our day-to-day life nowadays. Technologies that societies develop say a lot about our needs, desires, hopes, fears and anxieties. The sites we access and the spaces we construct around us become like self-portraits or profiles of who we are. 

We can be in numerous places simultaneously. The space/s we are exposed to nurture and manipulate who we are today. Sometimes making us vulnerable. Our space expands through the places and multiple realities we have access to virtually and physically. Our relationship with space (and time) is changing exponentially through developments in technology. 

Which artistic techniques and styles do you find yourself most drawn towards, and how would you say they help you express your favourite themes in the most direct and potent way possible?

I find all media equally expressive. I have worked with sculpture, installation, video art, photography, printing, drawing and painting. However, for a number of years I have been developing my painting process. It started off with mixed media and then into oil and graphite only. 

Mainly because of the context and creative processes informing what techniques I need to apply. I tend to work with more than one style on the same canvas; which references the multiple realities that coexist and to which we are connected.

I quite like oil as it involves ‘time’. Time unfolds quite poetically during the process. I do not have to be literal about notions of time. The world is continuously accelerating. We are becoming more and more efficient in many respects. Oil paint slows it down and gives me a chance to read between the lines, to tease out a critique of the contemporary life. Paint references tactility; which is at the lower end of the hierarchy of the senses in the visual culture that we live in today.

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

I would say that opportunities are growing and support to the arts increasing. I would like to see it mature and flourish as a fully-fledged industry in Malta.  Coming from a teaching background I would also like to see the visual arts be considered as a main subject. 

The subject needs more space to prove itself in practice. Art has the potential to play a key role in life long learning skills in visual literacy, visual culture, thinking skills, critique and creativity, which are transferable in all spheres of life. This would benefit the holistic education of our citizens generally speaking and more specifically, would help the arts flourish.

What’s next for you?

I will be participating and curating an exhibition at the Malta Stock Exchange which will be showing from early March to late April. I’m researching, doodling and gathering notes for my next projects – thinking more about connectivity of spaces, and the spaces of ‘flow’.

The Seated Traveller is currently on display at Chetcuti Cauchi Advocates, 120 St Ursula Street, Valletta and is open for viewing strictly by appointment with the artist. To book an appointment, contact Adrian Scicluna on [email protected]. Cover image: ‘Living Space’ by Adrian Scicluna