Nik Keter: ‘Pain may seem like it lasts forever in the moment, but it passes too’

The Mqabba artist Nik Keter tells all in our Q&A

Nik Keter (Photo: James Bianchi/MaltaToday)
Nik Keter (Photo: James Bianchi/MaltaToday)

The Mqabba artist says considers herself a poet who uses both the pen and the brush to connect themes of the surreal, the unconscious archetype of the Mother, present as a unifying undercurrent to tradition, as well as the reviving of the archetype in a new light. Her debut solo exhibition “In the name of the Mother… and of the Daughter” runs from 19 August to 14 September at Il-Kamra ta’ Fuq.

What’s the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning?

I think about last night’s dreams, then get my business done in the bathroom before doing light yoga, solemn meditation and prayer.

What is the best advice you’ve ever received?

To write down things and structure yourself.

What do you never leave the house without?

Keys and earphones. The world is noisy, I like keeping it out.

Pick three words that describe yourself

Introspective, self-absorbed, sensitive.

What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?

Choosing to go off the beaten path and pursue art without formal schooling, leading to my first solo exhibition.

What is your guiltiest pleasure?

Indulging in mental escapades that have no chance of actually occurring, but the ‘what if…’ is tantalising.

What is the most important lesson life has taught you?

That things pass. Pain may seem like it lasts forever in the moment, but it passes too. The sun rises the next day, and the day after that. One day you will smile again, truthfully.

Property and cars aside what’s the most expensive thing you’ve ever bought?

Probably my laptop. Sum total, art supplies.

What is one thing you wish you knew when you were younger?

I wish I knew that the rug wasn’t going to be swept up from under my feet as soon as I stepped out and tried something new, that I would still have support, even if not from everyone.

Who’s your inspiration?

Saint Theresa of Avila. Her ultimate, unshakable humility and determination is everything I hope to cultivate within myself.

What has been your biggest challenge?

Dealing with anxiety and issues self-worth.

If you weren’t an artist what would you be doing?

Probably either some sort of nun or priestess, or else studying psychology and theology.      

Do you believe in God?

I experience Her all around me.   

If you could have dinner with any person, dead or alive, who would it be?

I wouldn’t pick any celebrity, dead or alive. Better to keep their idealised images in my head than risk shattering them. I’d choose a beloved friend to spend time with.

What’s your worst habit?

Being too self-righteous.

What are you like when you’re drunk?

I fall asleep before I can get drunk. I’m no fun at parties.

Who would you have play you in a film?

Lachlan Watson.

What is the trait you most deplore in others?

Hypocrisy, especially in combination with giving (unwanted) advice that one does not follow themselves.

What music would you have played at your funeral?

The three Gymnopédies by Satie. They’re quiet, pensive pieces… I’d want people to reflect inward rather than outward upon my death.   

What is your most treasured material possession?

I don’t particularly attach sentimentality to material possessions… I love collecting shiny trinkets, coins, miniature porcelain teapots, little souvenirs from nature such as rocks and shells, but I’m not too attached that losing them or leaving them behind would cause me grief.

What is your earliest memory?

I was about one, one and a half, I asked my dad to dissect a rat so that I could see the heart. That was probably my first moment of lucidity, intrepid curiosity at what makes things tick.

When did you last cry, and why?

A couple of days ago. I don’t cry often, but when it rains it pours. I was remembering my great grandma, who passed away when I was ten… she had started to go blind at the time and so couldn’t see my drawings… I was wondering what she would say if she could see my work now, nine years later.

Who would you most like to meet?

Mama Cass, of the Mamas and the Papas.

What’s your favourite food?

Anything hot and soothing; food that leaves a warm glow on faces and in stomachs after being eaten, ‘Nanna’s-brodu-tat-tigiega’ style.

Who’s your favourite person on social media right now?

Natalie Wynn – aka Contrapoints.

If you could travel in time, where would you go?

For a very brief period, I’d love to be back in the 1970s-1980s.

What book are you reading right now?

The Life of Saint Theresa of Avila by herself.

If you could have any superpower, what would it be?

Enough wisdom to make better decisions, and enough wisdom to choose good advice when presented.

What’s one thing you want to do before you die?

Establish a community for people who have felt snubbed by modern religion, to recreate the nourishing, warm, universal love of the Mother-God between people rather than preached off a podium.   

What music are you listening to at the moment?

A wide variety. I tend to fixate on a couple songs for months at a time until I find a new one that clicks… right now it is Charlotte Sometimes by The Cure, First Love/Late Spring by Mitski and Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now by The Smiths. I categorise my music by occasion though; so I have music I specifically listen to while relaxing, walking, painting…

In the shower or when you’re working out, what do you sing/listen to?

My ‘workout music’ (which is really just long walks) consists of high tempo hyperpop or songs with a defined bassline or beat; Gorillaz songs come to mind, or Tame Impala’s early works.