'The visual is the most fundamental aspect of what I do'

Up-and-coming artist Adrian Abela, whose new exhibition opens at GWU, Valletta tomorrow, speaks to Teodor Reljic about the crooked timber that drives his multi-disciplinary work.

A young artist finds himself in an attic in Germany. He gazes out into the night sky and is transported back home – he thinks of a local proverb: ‘Il-qamar bil-pipa f’ ħalqu u kulħadd kif Alla ħalqu’ (the moon has a pipe in its mouth and everyone is just as God created them).

Fast forward to six years later, and the surreal image has now become the basis for the multimedia artist’s upcoming exhibition.

Adrian Abela will be exhibiting a series of drawings undertaken during that very same trip – alongside a collection of random works dated 2004-2011 – at the General Workers’ Union Memorial Building, South Street Valletta from tomorrow and until April 8.

Aside from drawings, the exhibition will also feature photos, embroidery, prints and paintings.

“The title of the exhibition happens to be my favourite Maltese proverb. Ultimately this is what my work is mainly about – ‘kulħadd kif Alla ħalqu’,” Abela says.

And this worldview is evident in Abela’s choice of subject matter too. While he claims to be interested in “almost everything” (from architecture to biology and cuisine), Abela has a particular fondness for “human subjects”.

“Some are inspired by photo albums of family and friends, Facebook photos, magazines, and political campaigns…”

But more intriguingly, Abela expresses an admiration for Tim Browning’s 1932 film Freaks, which featured real-life circus ‘freaks’ – people with various physical deformities.

“The human images in the film have remained impressed in my memory, not only for their aesthetic qualities, but also because the film’s portrayal of humanity opened a window onto the subjectivity within the broad spectrum we call reality.

“The human beings cast in the film, considered and exploited as freaks in the West at the time, could be transposed onto an Eastern culture where they would be perceived as godlike; nowadays these people are clinically defined by their illness or abnormality.

“By drawing these human subjects I have tried to explore the various cultural perceptions regarding their natural makeup, a process which has led me from the aesthetic of the American sideshow to that of the Indian Hindu religion. This cultural aesthetic of the ‘freak’ and the way it seems to contrast with contemporary self-willed modifications on the human body intrigues me to produce new works around the subject.”

This disregard for any cut and dry categories is also evident in Abela’s refusal to limit himself to one single medium, or indeed style.

“I don’t think that my work, which I have been producing since 2004, can be limited to one particular style or technique. I have changed, and so has my work, but I can always go back to previous approaches to produce present drawings, because I can still relate to them. I won’t attempt to describe in words what my ‘style’ is.

“I would say that sometimes the medium is determined by the subject chosen, while at other times it is the medium that naturally implies a particular image or theme. Therefore I don’t limit myself to any medium or subject.

“The visual is the most fundamental aspect of what I do, which is why I will avoid a verbal indication and invite those interested to visit the exhibition.”

Il-qamar bil-pipa f’ ħalqu u kulħadd kif Alla ħalqu will be be open until April 8 as follows: Monday to Friday – 07:00 to 22:00; Saturday and Sunday – 07:00 to 19:00.

The exhibition is supported by http://artboxes.org/

To see more of Abela’s works, log on to

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