Nicole Sciberras Debono: ‘Who would I most like to meet? My past and future self'

Artist Nicole Sciberras Debono tells all in our Q&A

Photo: James Bianchi
Photo: James Bianchi

Nicole Sciberras Debono is a Maltese contemporary artist working in paint and digital print, whose work primarily focuses on portraits and figurative narratives. Her art normally showcases matters of her interest at the time, including people in her life, her surroundings, or any other signs of the times. Debono’s first solo exhibition ‘Lost in the Ether’ is currently happening at il-Kamra ta’ Fuq in Mqabba, and will be open until 12 September. Lost in the Ether is curated by Arts Sweven.

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

I have a shower, make coffee, have a look at what I have been working on the day before and see how I feel about it. Then I go through my socials and my emails.

What is the best advice you’ve ever received?

“Don’t listen to your parents. They hardly know what they’re doing either.”

What do you never leave the house without?

For the past year I have made it a habit to carry a sketchbook with me everywhere I go. So, it’s that, pencils or ink, my phone, and keys.

Pick three words that describe yourself

Analytical, ambitious, introverted.

What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?

One of my greatest achievements is happening right now – my first solo exhibition, ‘Lost in the Ether’, curated by Arts Sweven. You can find it at il-Kamra ta’ Fuq in Mqabba, open until the 12th September 2022.

What is your guiltiest pleasure?

Ugh, milk chocolate. And pistachio ice cream.

What is the most important lesson life has taught you?

Blood is thicker than water, but you can drown in both. That, and hard work doesn’t always pay off, but it’s imperative you try your hardest anyway.

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

Apart from my laptop and camera equipment, probably art by other artists. I love collecting art, especially pieces by artists I know and admire.

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

When you’re in something for the long-haul, it pays off more to be consistent, present, and to embrace the very act of growth, rather than to be the best from the very start. You’ll have a lot of time to reach the latter.

Who’s your inspiration?

Difficult to include everyone because there are so many artists who inspire me in some way or another. But to name a few, I am inspired by Nicolas Uribe, Lucian Freud, Ruprecht von Kaufmann, and Sainer. I am also influenced by artists close to me, whom I consider my contemporaries or peers.

What has been your biggest challenge?

Living with uncertainty. It can be a weight to carry around sometimes, but for the most part, I am learning to embrace it.

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

I suppose I would still be practising law.

Do you believe in God?

No. Does she believe in me?

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

I think dinner with Andy Warhol would be interesting. And maybe he can invite Jean-Michel Basquiat to join us.

What’s your worst habit?

Overthinking and under-reacting.

What are you like when you’re drunk?

I don’t usually get to that point.

Who would you have play you in a film?

Lady Gaga.

What is the trait you most deplore in others?

Dishonesty and manipulation – such a dreadful trait in people.

What music would you have played at your funeral?

The entire ‘Black Parade’ album by My Chemical Romance.

What is your most treasured material possession?

Any artwork collected from other artists, some of which I also consider my friends.

What is your earliest memory?

Probably getting told off for drawing on my mother’s walls as a child.

When did you last cry, and why?

At a Florence and Machine gig in July. It was such an ethereal experience.

Who would you most like to meet?

My past and future self.

What’s your favourite food?

I’m a sucker for Napoli pizza and tiramisu.

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

Jamian Juliano-Villani – she co-founded a gallery in New York called O’Flaherty’s. She’s so eccentric and interesting. Also, Colleen Barry. I think she’s one of the best contemporary artists of our time.

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

I think to the day the last human is alive on Earth. I’m curious to know how it ends.

What book are you reading right now?

‘The Yellow House: Van Gogh, Gauguin, and Nine Turbulent Weeks in Provence’ by Martin Gayford. It’s intriguing because it speaks about how Van Gogh and Gaugin wanted to build a community of artists in the famous Yellow House, and I relate to it because it is something I also seek out with other artists too, over a century later. This is something I touch upon a lot with my collection ‘Lost in the Ether’. I wonder what Van Gogh and Gaugin would have thought of building relationships with artists and communities over the Internet.

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

To be able to teleport through both space and time.

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

To have a life well lived. And to visit New Zealand.

What music are you listening to at the moment?

Mostly punk rock by female fronted bands, and female musicians. As well as my usual rotation between Florence and the Machine, Paramore, Lorde, and Marina.

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

I enjoy listening to podcasts, my two favourites being John Dalton’s “Gently does it…” where he often interviews other artists or talks about topical matters in the art world at the time, and the David McWilliams podcast, which deals more with finance, economics, technology and politics.