January 04 2004
Our ceramacist from Cornwall
Zell Osborne came to Malta some years ago and has made a name for herself
with her stunning pottery. Osborne follows Malta’s art scene enthusiastically
and is well known in cultural circles. Her current exhibition of rather
fascinating and somewhat macabre art is on at St James Cavalier Centre
for Creativity in Valletta until 11 January.
to Malta, what brought you here?
A Boeing 737 – sorry I couldn’t resist that, having been asked
this question so many times! On a more serious note, the answer is similar
to most foreigners who end up settling here in Malta – namely,
for a holiday. It happens that I have a lifelong friend, Vivien Fielding
Refalo, who was and still is teaching contemporary dance here. She initially
invited me out for a visit. Subsequently I met the then Director of
Museums, Father Marius Zerafa, who invited me to exhibit my works at
the Museum of Fine Arts. My first exhibition there was in 1986, followed
by another in 1988. Then I was introduced to the late Paddy Stubbs and
his wife Janatha who asked me to run the art/pottery studio at Ir-Razzett
tal-Hbieberija which at the time was in the process of being set up
– and I’ve been here ever since.
changed the direction of your works and if so, in what ways?
That’s a difficult question to answer because not being a ‘psychic’
I have no idea of what sort of work I would have been doing if I had
remained in the UK or gone elsewhere. But my gut feeling is that wherever
I happen to live my directions would have remained the same.
in Malta or abroad inspire you?
I remember being very much influenced by my lecturers at Cardiff College
of Art, all practicing ceramicists in the different genres in the art
of clay – be it throwing pots, modeling or slip-casting. At the
same time I was very impressed by the architect Gaudi when I visited
Barcelona way back in 1976. I am sorry I can’t mention any particular
artist in Malta or abroad as sources of inspiration although I admire
many of their works greatly. My main inspirations come from nature and
favourite books such as ‘Microscopic Art Forms in Nature,’
‘African and Native-American Art,’ as well as visits to museums
such as the ethnological Pitt Rivers Museum and the Natural History
and Science museums in London. I am very inspired by ritual objects
and natural formations in rocks and sand and sea. I was very inspired
by the desert when I traveled through Arizona and New Mexico which also
inspired the painter Georgia O’Keeffe.
art reflect your world-view...or are you merely creating what you find
Well I think I have sort of answered that one in the previous question.
I am in no way a philosopher/academic so I’m not quite sure what
you mean by ‘world-view.’ I just react instinctively and intuitively
to all that I have described above plus the way clay reacts and behaves
in the making process.
the ceramics look pretty macabre, what is behind these pieces?
Yes indeed. Many times I have been told that a lot of my work looks
menacing and frightening. I have no idea where this comes from, as those
who know me well can testify (hopefully!) that I have none of these
qualities in my personality. So just put it down to an outlet of the
sub-conscious – better that than picking a fight with someone!
artist Grayson Perry has won the prestigious Turner Prize...what do
you think of his work?
When first confronted with this question I had yet to see the work of
the Turner Prize winner, having only seen photographs of the ‘Shirley
Temple’ artist in the newspapers. After a brief glimpse on the
internet I can say that technically it is very refined, being based
on classical designs, although the subject may not be everyone’s
cup of tea.
something about your current exhibition and future plans
This exhibition is a retrospective of the work I have done since 1988
to the present day while I have been in Malta. My future plans are to
start immediately working towards another exhibition, to hold some ceramic
workshops for students at St James’ Cavalier and carry on with
my job at The Park of Friendship, working with special needs children.
This requires some flexibility at times which suits my personality.