Have you visited the Picasso Exhibition in Valletta?

It is a truth universally acknowledged that unless you have actually been to the place you are writing about, you cannot write a good review, give suggestions, or try to ‘teach’ people anything about it. Seems like common sense right? Well, actually it is 🙂 

I love travelling. That is kind of obvious to anyone who knows me or who follows my articles or blog-posts. However, that being said, and travelling apart, first and foremost it is important to know and appreciate the beautiful and significant places within your own country, before venturing farther away. Which is why I also love to just explore all the many architectural and historical, not to mention natural wonders in Malta, the island I live in. 

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A few weeks ago, me and my boyfriend decided to grab the bus to Valletta, Malta’s capital city, instead of using the car as usual, and make a kind of adventure out of our excursion. I take the bus almost every day coming back from work, but my boyfriend never does, so venturing to Valletta in this way with him was fun as I felt as though I was seeing everything for the first time with his eyes somehow. It was a very special date, as we went somewhere quiet exceptional – to view the Pablo Picasso’s sketches which are being exhibited in Valletta right now.

Following Antonio Banderas’ work-related visit to our islands while he was working on the set for the forthcoming National Geographic Season 2 of the T.V series ‘Genius’, and portraying the great artist Pablo Picasso, a large number of the Spanish painter’s actual paintings are currently on exhibit in our shores. More specifically, the exhibition is taking place at the Grandmaster’s Palace, in Saint George Square Valletta. It opened its doors on the 7th of April and will be available to the general public until the 30th of June.

This exhibition is part of a major international project titled ‘Picasso-Méditerranée’, an initiative from Musée National Picasso in Paris held between Spring 2017 and Spring 2019. In fact, not only will more than 100 of Picasso’s works be on exhibit, but so will a number of the artworks pertaining to the Spanish artist Joan Miró – the painter, sculptor and ceramicist born in Barcelona. The exhibition, entitled ‘Picasso and Miró: The Flesh and the Spirit’, aims at bringing the public closer to the perception of two artistic creators who shook the foundation of traditional art.

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The exhibition consists of a selection of 100 etchings from the Collection Suite Vollard which belongs to Fundación Mapfre and 40 paintings by Miro belonging to the Espacio Miró exhibition in Madrid. Fundación Mapfre is bringing this exhibition to Malta in collaboration with the Office of the President of Malta and Fondazzjoni Patrimonju Malti (FPM).

The two artists’ work was paired together because of the similarities that run through their style and creative process. This is the first exhibition of Picasso and Miro in Malta and perhaps of any modern painter of this stature. Pablo Picasso and Joan Miro are two of the 20th century’s most influential artists. While the first founded cubism, the second was active in the emergence of surrealism.

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Following the exhibition, we roamed around Valletta and finally found a cute British pub and restaurant where to have lunch. A couple of beers were the perfect foil for such a day!

If you want to read more about Picasso and Miro’s exhibition, take a look at the article which I subsequently wrote for LivingInMalta magazine, here. Some of the info I wrote in this blogpost in fact comes from my article itself, but I urge you to visit the magazine for the whole thing.

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The Treasures of Antwerp Square

If you think about it, the Flemish mush have been very neat people. I say this because when I was in Belgium, each of the major Flemish medieval cities was structured in the same way. Be it Ghent, Bruges, Brussels or Antwerp – each of these cities, built during the middle ages, sprawls around one large main square which is surrounded on all four sides by important buildings built in a gothic architectural style. Each square in each city has a Town Hall, where decisions about the city were taken by the Town Major, important meetings took place, and where people even got married (and still do actually). There is also always at least one cathedral, usually sporting a very tall tower with a magnificently crafted large clock at the top.

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This is the Town Hall, or City Hall in Antwerp, also called the Stadhuis. It stands on the western side of Market Square and was built in the 16th century. Its facade is richly ornamented and quite impressive, decorated with various well-crafted statues. Unfortunately, we couldn’t actually get inside the Standhuis because there was a private wedding taking place, and access was, of course, prohibited unless you were invited. So, we turned right around… to be confronted by the majestic Cathedral of Our Lady on the other side of the square.

 

Hauntingly gothic on the outside and beautifully baroque on the inside. I can never have enough of visiting Gothic Cathedrals! And no, I am not Catholic, it’s the art and architecture itself that I love. Those people invested everything they had in their cathedrals, it was the place where they went to dream and hope for a better tomorrow. In a world of misery, pain, and poverty, peasants had nothing else beautiful to look at. Imagine, even today, when we have all our geegaws, out plasma screens and hi-tech computers, when we all know how to read and write and are able to amuse ourselves, even NOW we are awed by these amazing gothic structures… now imagine people who have absolutely nothing – how THEY must have felt when entering a place of such incredible breathtaking beauty!

Anyways, hehe yes I love art and I love architecture.

 

Moving on, the Cathedral is full of paintings done by Rubens, the artist whose house I had visited just before (see previous post). And just look at that stained glass!

 

Oh and by the way, did I mention all those other historic medieval houses around the square? Today, most of them are restaurants and pubs, but they still contain their original magic. Imagine having a drink in a 600 year old bar!

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In conclusion – 10 points to Antwerp Square!!

A Writer’s Satisfaction

I must admit, researching and writing interviews is not my favorite form of writing. Of course, I do love the opportunity to meet new people and discover different modes of expression, not to mention taking part in the artistic local scene, since most of the interviews I conduct usually center around either artists or cultural events. However, some part of me still feels that this is not the sort of writing I’m meant to focus on.

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Still, it brings me great pleasure to see how my interviews are so very well-received.

My two latest interviews were totally different in nature. Both resulted in quite different, yet very pleasant results. The first such article, published on The Sunday Times of Malta, which is a leading weekly local newspaper, centered around a Japanese Cultural event in Malta and included an interview with the Secretary General of the Japanese Association. As a result of it being published, the Ambassador of Japan to Malta contacted me personally, asking for a soft copy of the article, in order for it to be shared and distributed among various Japanese cultural associations, as its fervor would further promote the communication between our two countries. I was really flattered about this! Imagine Japanese organisations, Ministries, and many other people in Japan will be reading my article! 

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The other interview which was published a couple of days ago concerns a local painter and was published on EVE magazine. The artist in question is not very well known, yet he was so pleased with the interview that he left the following comment on EVE’s website, which I really appreciate:

‘I’d like to thank Melisande Aquilina, for this fantastic article about my love towards art. She has done a really excellent job. I feel tremendously grateful towards her talent as a writer. Melisande is giving a great contribution towards persons like me, whose work is hardly known. This is a great day for me, thanks to you Melisande.’

Thank YOU!

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The article in question can be found here – http://www.eve.com.mt/2016/12/04/benny-brimmer-painting-in-light-and-shadow/

The interview which was published on The Sunday Times is unfortunately not available online as a whole.

Things like these are what really make my day!

 

Susan Waitt’s Night Gallery – Halloween Interview

My first personal meeting with American artist Susan Waitt occurred some years ago at a private spiritually-themed event and reception, taking place in a certain ex-bordello in Valletta. Her colourful, vibrant outlook and curiosity immediately struck a chord. A Scorpio, the Connecticut-born artist worked as an illustrator for a Disney studio in Massachusetts, hosted her own American TV talk show and was an artistic director and writer for Liquorish TV, to name but a few of her achievements.

On the other hand, her gothic, surreal artwork seems to spell quite a different character; more dark, more mysterious, but still very intriguing. Waitt’s perception seems to filter and reproduce vagrant metaphysical ideas of succubi and the supernatural; sinister presences which may as well hide within each and every one of us, or even behind the closed door around the corner.

What prompted you to come to live in Malta?

Originally, I came here to co-organise an international conference on the consciousness of the Megalithic Temple builders, and somehow, I never left. I’ve lived in Malta for nine years.

From Disney artwork to the grotesque: How did one category of art evolve into the other?

The concept of the grotesque in art and literature speaks to something profoundly basic about human nature, and the nature of existence itself. In fact, Disney perfected for a general audience the interplay of paradoxical opposites such as fear and laughter, aggression and playfulness, and the merging of bizarre, carnivalesque atmospheres with rational and logical realities. Think of all the terrifying moments in Bambi, Peter Pan, and Snow White to name just a few animated feature films. My art evolved from this quite naturally, in that I felt like it was part of the whole circle of life, since the spectrum of experience was all there in Disney already.

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Of course, I was always drawn to Bosch, Goya, Fuseli, Moreau, Dali and many other artists who portrayed what was dark, subterranean and wrapped in ineffable mystery. Now, having grown older and somewhat wearier of the world, it often appears to me that there are also precious gifts within the darkness of the human mind – depth, profundity, nuance and complexity. Intense contrasts of light and dark add a sense of drama and therefore a sense of awe. Awe is a key aspect of the experience of the sublime.

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Is there a particular unifying theme within the exhibition?

I deliberately used Victorian Spiritualism and mediumistic séances together as a unifying trope or motif, because I felt it represented the collective desire of humanity to probe the unspeakable enigma at the centre of existence.

What is your method of creation?

For many years I painted in acrylics only, especially for large-scale mural projects. Now with my studio work, I usually first execute an unfinished acrylic under-painting, usually on a toned background and then finish in oils. When I was working as a commercial book illustrator for Disney and Fisher Price, I was constrained to lay out book galleys meticulously. That required sketching and sometimes re-sketching scenes and finishing with inks, water colours and airbrush. In recent years, I started executing artworks with the same absolute freedom and energy that I had usually reserved for my free-time sketching and doodling. I’m producing art directly onto the canvas now.

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This article/interview appeared on EVE Magazine on 22.10.2016 – Please follow the link to read the rest of it: http://www.eve.com.mt/2016/10/22/susan-waitts-night-gallery-the-uncanny-the-sublime/

Where was I?

Allo?!… Allo?!… YES I’M STILL ALIVE!

Truly, I haven’t written anything on my blog in such a long time, and I am kind of ashamed of myself. The usual story applies – I was too busy! Ah but, you ask me, too busy doing what?

Well first of all, after me and my other half bought the town house (or maisonette actually), we started the job of refurbishing it. True – it was supposed to be ‘finished’ in Real Estate jargon – meaning that there were ‘perfectly good’ walls, a roof, a kitchen (which I must admit, is swell), and two bathrooms, and we could just move in with our furniture in a jiffy. Well, guess what? It actually wasn’t.

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First of all we had an electrician check out all the kaboodle. Needless to say, we found LOTS of stuff that needed doing and changing. Even had to dig into the walls in some places. Secondly, we got a plumber and checked out all of that too – after a while we realized that almost every piece of plumbing we would come into contact with on a daily basis, needed to be fixed too. The shower nozzle and the flushing in the main bathroom had to be changed, the ones in the ensuite had to be changed as well, as did a couple of taps. Last, but not least, last week the kitchen sink got blocked. When we changed the pipe and poured down some sink-clearing acid, this fell through the pipe, threatening to spill everywhere and corrode furniture. We managed to clean it, but for now we cannot use the kitchen sink at all, since the plumber is currently abroad… achhh it never ends.

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Electricity and plumbing aside, we hired an Irish guy to paint the whole house, because quite simply, it was terrible. Not only were the walls not sanded and so quite rough, but the people who lived there before us were, apparently, colourblind. Would you believe that each room in the house was painted a different colour? Each room represented a colour of the rainbow, I KID YOU NOT!

So, the stairs leading to the main entrance were blue, the living room was dark green, the kitchen was light green, the main bedroom was red, the second bedroom was pink, the third one was purple, the main corridor was a weird salmon colour, and the washroom on the roof was orange!!! It took us almost three weeks to get the darn colours out!!! Of course, we did not do the painting ourselves, since we have no experience in the field and while an experienced painter took 3 weeks, we’d probably have spent 3 months trying to figure it out… and it was difficult for the painter too! Some colours, like the orange, just wouldn’t come out! He had to paint the same washroom 6 times for it to disappear!!!

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In the meantime, although we were not the ones painting the place, we took time off from work, and when we actually did go to work, ferried ourselves straight to the new home afterwards. We already have some furniture (not to mention all my books) there, as well as a new 55″ T.V set already installed, and to be honest, though the painter seemed like a nice sort, we did not want to leave him alone with the stuff. Mostly though, we realize that certain workers/mice tend to take long ‘breaks’ when the cat is away… so, better safe than sorry.

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To cut a long (very long) story short, the paint-job is now finally done. We also ordered a lot of furniture, the main bedroom, and the parquet flooring, which should be delivered next week. Let’s see how that goes.

The most stress-inducing issue of them all however, is the Maltese mentality. Why? Because every time one needs some kind of works done, or some kind of service, even though one is offering money, one has to literally chase said manufacturer/furniture store/woodworker all over the place. You call him a million times  only for him to tell you to go talk to him in person, then when you actually do, he either tells you he does not provide that kind of work, or that he needs to come to your place to verify the measurements for a simple quotation. Later, he forgets he had an appointment and does not come, so you call him again. And again. When he finally comes, he’s late, takes the measurements, and tells you he will ‘let you know’ about the quote later. A couple of weeks go by and nothing. You send emails and call some more. Until finally he calls you back and tells you the store is on shut down for the summer months… OH FOR FU**’S SAKE! And this is not an isolated incident – it’s EVERYBODY!!

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How the hell can I not be irritated? So many setbacks just because people do not want to earn money and do their actual job!

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Anyways, yes – this is what I have been doing and where I have been. There is much work to do yet, but we are, very slowly, getting there. I had hoped we’d move in before leaving for our ten-day holiday to Wales in September, however at this point, I doubt it very much…

Still, I believe all of this will be worthwhile in the end. Our ‘Castle’ will be just the way we want it – a refuge, a haven, a dream-house – I can’t wait!

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The Secret Sin of Writing

It is a truth universally acknowledged that what sells, and GOOD WRITING are two very different things. It is also a fact that most artistic geniuses, which are freely viewed as such today, were nobodies when they were alive, and in fact many of them were unbelievably poor and wretched.

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Not all of them of course, Charles Dickens, being a carismatic charmer, made more money out of his public readings, which advertised his own writing skills, than from his journalistic writings. Mozart, who was a child-prodigy, wowed the nobility with his precociousness, and Lord Byron was also well-known not only for his boyish Casanova-like behavior, but also for his poetry and grace. These however are just flukes, and not the norm at all.

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What sells is what magazines and newspapers look for. What sells is the thing most Editors really consider when reading a draft for the first time. Shakespeare was a struggling playwright in his time – one of the many trying to gain the attention of the nobility to earn a living. The same could be said for Marlowe, Blake and many other such artistic geniuses. They tried to find a balance between pleasing the masses and being true to their art. One wonders what great artistic treasures they could have produced, had they not been constrained by the need to earn money through the use of their talent.

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I need money. Doesn’t everyone? Now more than ever, I need money. This is the point in my life where I think, I will need money most. That is why I totally understand how and why a writer, a musician, an artist, sometimes has to prostitute his or her talent. It does not mean I like it. Hopefully, it will not always be so. I will always need money of course, but I dream of a time in future, when I will be comfortable enough to at least relegate my office hours to work, and then afterwards be free to write whatever I want, for the sole pleasure of writing it, and not for any other ulterior motives.

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Of course, if others like reading what I write, and I make a gazzillion euros out of it, I won’t complain either ;p

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2014 Good Movies – What have I missed?

This morning I had the idea of looking around youtube trailers for good 2014 movies, to check up if I had missed watching any. While I was at it, I also viewed a couple of trailers for good movies coming out in 2015, and made a very short (for now) list. Here goes:

2014 – To Watch

1. Mr Turner – Released Oct 2014 – Biographical drama about the life of the notorious landscape painter J.M.W Turner

2. Effie Gray – Released Oct 2014 – Biographical drama about the life of art critic John Turner’s wife and their strange relationship. Also about the Pre-Raphaelite artistic movement.

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3. Wish I was Here – Released July 2014 – I don’t usually like comedies, but I’m curious since Zach Braff (‘Scrubs’) is not only the main character but also the writer, producer and director.

Any other movies you think might be worth watching? I love horror, psychological thrillers, historical dramas and anything to do with fairytales. Not the ‘Frozen’ kind, but the ‘Into the Woods’ and ‘Maleficent’ kind.

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2015 – To Watch

1. Pan – Release July 2015 – Yes another Peter Pan remake, so what? ;p

2. Ex Machina – – Released April 2015 – An experiment which makes one reflect on the actual origins of life. Sounds interesting.

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3. Unfriended – Released April 2015 – Psychological horror – How powerful are social media?

4. The DUFF – Released February 2015 – Yet another movie about the school ugly duckling who turns into a swan. Yes these things do happen, because I was such a case, so I have a soft spot for these kind of movies. So there ;p

Again, any other movies you might want to suggest are more than welcome.

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