Gabriel Buttigieg: ‘I can describe myself as being happy so far. I’m fulfilling my life’s purpose’

 Artist Gabriel Buttigieg tells all in our Q&A

Gabriel Buttigieg (Photo: James Bianchi/MaltaToday)
Gabriel Buttigieg (Photo: James Bianchi/MaltaToday)

With an artist residency at the Clover Mill Artist Residency at an old water windmill in Giessenburg, the Netherlands, visual artist Gabriel Buttigieg recently took part in collective exhibitions ‘Darkness at Noon’ and ‘{v}’, and on the international front, ‘Dialogs2020 Contemporary Connection’ in Italy, ‘Genesis’ in the United Kingdom, and ‘Spring & Autumn Virtual Exhibition’ (2020/1) Cyprus. He has been featured in the Wall Street International (American and French editions), ArtDependence Magazine (Belgium), ArtsTalk (Netherlands, and Impeached (Switzerland).

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

I usually sleep for another hour, then I eventually get around to having a coffee. Once I get to my studio, which happens practically daily, I prepare another coffee, and start working.

What is the best advice you’ve ever received?

Always be true to that which defines you. Don’t try too hard, it doesn’t work, just be, and move with what comes your way. That is the only manner in which identity can flourish in an uninhibited manner, in this case, my identity as an artist.

What do you never leave the house without?

My mobile and cigarettes, of course.

Pick three words that describe you

Intuitive, instinctive, and epicurean.

What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?

My solo exhibition at the Academy of Fine Arts in Gdańsk, Poland.

What is your guiltiest pleasure?

I love cooking and watching chefs on YouTube. Lately, I am following Marco Pierre White, as I am taken up by his personality, and his take on food and life. My habitual visits to the hairdresser (a shout-out to the Castillos) also deserves a mention. I am usually the only male there!

What is the most important lesson life has taught you?

Be mindful. Live the present moment, appreciating those who cross your path in life.

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

A treasure painting by Leonard Cohen.

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

Rein in impulsivity. I must say this trait still rears its head at times.

Who’s your inspiration?

It’s quite a known fact – my father.

What has been your biggest challenge?

One of the biggest challenges in my life is that of remaining focused on my career. It is not a linear route, as it depends on so many factors, both of the internal and the external type. Results will slowly come to fruition when one is prolific and authentic in stance, and when one perseveres, despite all. But the daily challenge is there!

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

No ifs or buts about this one. A musician – either a drummer or a bassist.

Do you believe in God?

Which one?

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

There are so many that I would not dare to pick and choose. However, with my back against the wall, I would say Modigliani. I’m sure we would have lots to say to each other over a bottle of wine.

What’s your worst habit?

Spending loads of money on wine – obviously good wine!

What are you like when you’re drunk?

Well, like most of us, I would say my instinctive nature comes forth.

Who would you have play you in a film?

They say I resemble Can Yaman. My body is of course different, so he would need to lose a few pounds of muscle to play me, but that would probably do!

What is the trait you most deplore in others?

This is a triad really! I hate predictability, people who conform, and an insular mentality.

What music would you have played at your funeral?

A Cohen track would be nice. Naturally, I wouldn’t be listening though.

What is your most treasured material possession?

My watch collection, and the artworks I have collected so far.

What is your earliest memory?

I remember drawing on the breakfast table. I was young, around 5 years old. My dad called me into the study and told me to write my name and my age of the sketch. Thankfully, I still have the drawing as he had kept it and framed it.

When did you last cry, and why?

I have a much-loved dog, which I had gotten over from Sicily. Prior to his arrival, I was informed that the whole litter, including him, was ill, and urgent medical treatment was necessary. This was quite strange as I had never met this dog, yet he still managed to make me cry!

Who would you most like to meet?

Most definitely Trent Reznor, Nine Inch Nails frontman.

What’s your favourite food?


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

I’m not sure. There are so many individuals one could mention. However, I would say I feel that the circle of contemporary artists is of great importance to me, as it makes me feel part of an international community.

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

Early 20th century, Paris, France. Most definitely, those salons! I’m a sucker for that time. It would have been amazing to meet that wonderful rebellious crowd, made up of so many talented artists, over a coffee or a mellow Bordeaux. I surely have a soft spot for that era.

What book are you reading right now?

I’m reading “The Book of Symbols”, edited by Ami Ronnberg, which deals with archetypical images from different cultural contexts and throughout history. It is a great book to own when engaging in the arts.

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

I have never really thought of this. I suppose I wish I had the possibility to stop time, as some moments are too beautiful to let go of.

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

I can describe myself as being happy so far. I am fulfilling my life’s purpose, although there is still much more I wish to accomplish. I still have many dreams and wishes but I still feel that I am doing that which I have always wished to do.

What music are you listening to at the moment?

When it comes to music, my tastes are chameleon. I listen to so many different genres and artists that it is impossible to pin one down. At the moment, I am listening to the sublime interpretations of Llasa De Sela. She is the definition of soulful perfection.

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

In fact, I have to be listening to music both when I shower and when I work out. Once again, what I listen to depends on my mood. When working out, I love the sound of Nicholas Jaar or Morphine. I opt for something calmer when in the shower, perhaps classical music or indie.