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INTERVIEW | Sunday, 16 March 2008

Drifting in and out of being

The young painter Dustin Cauchi, who will be launching an exhibition entitled Ix-U Jien at the Museum of Fine Arts, Valletta on April 18, speaks to Teodor Reljic about his development as an artist. Photography by Kari McKay

For how long had you been interested in painting and how would you say your approach to painting has developed to what it is now?
I had been fascinated with art since I was a child. I actually remember my first ever trip to the National Museum of Fine Arts in Valletta, on a school visit during my primary school years. I even remember being fascinated by Arte Sacra - paintings and sculptures in churches. Over the years a naive need for expression developed into a more technical - and structured - approach to my work. I believe an artist is free when he constructs a structure in which to work in: freedom is not chaos. Only through technique can an artist find total freedom. This fact has become quite obvious for me today and I think it’s true of all art forms: a musician practices on his instrument for hours a day, the performer works on his body for hours a day. When it comes to the artist (and I’m using the word ‘artist’ in this context to keep things simple), he must also master his body through technique, and must adopt a scientific approach to understand his medium better. For me art is born in the perfect balance between vision and technique.

You are a theatre studies and philosophy student. Have you deliberately chosen to express yourself in a medium that is external to your studies? How do your areas of study seep into your work, if they do?
I believe that philosophy has been very important to my artistic formation, as well as on a personal level. I think it is a pity that philosophy is not a compulsory subject, not only at University level, but even at primary levels of education. When it comes to theatre studies, I do believe that the painter has a lot to learn from the theatre-maker and the performer. I would love to have an opportunity to marry the two disciplines in the future. I believe that the act of painting has never been properly studied in the light of performance, after Jackson Pollock and Yves Klein. Now back to the question, yes, I do believe that my studies inform my work, and vice versa, I think it is inevitable.

Is there any particular mood that you hope to transmit in the paintings that will feature in this exhibition?
Well, I can’t say that there is a particular mood that I would like to transmit. This is a question which is very difficult to answer. So I will make it easier and talk about the process involved in this work. The 18 or so paintings which I will be exhibiting, are a document of two years of experimentation. During these last two years, I was looking at the possibilities, and limitations of painting. This work is born out of a need for questioning the act of painting, and as a result of this, questioning being per se. The work investigates this relationship between being and non-being. It only furnishes questions. I felt that in this context, language was an inappropriate tool, so funnily enough; I can say that I am exhibiting hanging questions, dressed up as paintings.

What is your opinion of the Maltese art scene and how do you hope to be perceived within a local context?
Here in Malta, on an individual level, there are very interesting contemporary artists which I respect, and am inspired by; like Caesar Attard and Giuseppe Schembri Bonaci. There are also other interesting contemporary artists that belong to a younger generation like Maria Bonnici. However on a collective level, there is no true strength. I believe that there is a need for a movement here in Malta. This is something that has happened here before both in art and literature and its beneficial effects are still felt today. Another important thing is educating the masses, through direct contact with art. We have to eliminate this idea of art as a bourgeois pastime. Art needs to be handed back to the masses. When it comes to the government, I think that an extra effort needs to be made in order to help and promote Maltese artists. I think that last year’s Caravaggio attributions exhibition, which cost a lot of money, and which reached its peak in the Malta Song for Europe Festival (with Claudia Faniello’s Caravaggio), was a perfect example of promoting these bourgeois events. Why didn’t the Ministry save that amount of money for promoting great Maltese Artists, like Josef Kalleya, Antoine Camilleri, Frank Portelli, Emvin Cremona, Willie Apap, Carmenu Mangion, and Antonio Sciortino to name just a few? By saying this I am leaving out academic lectures and publications, which are also very important, but do not address the masses, and are reserved to the very few. Why are we wasting time on someone else’s heritage, when we have treasures which are not yet discovered by the Maltese masses? Now back to the second part of your question: I don’t want to be perceived, I want to be.

Is there anything else you would like to add?
I would like to take the opportunity to thank Dennis Vella, the Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, at the National Museum of Fine Arts, for his constant help and Support.

The exhibition opening will coincide with the launch of Francesca Mangion’s book - which features illustrations by Cauchi and problematises the idea of a finalized work of art, both in literature and painting.


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WHAT'S ON

NIGHTLIFE

March 28
New Dead Nation
The 4th Dimension presents a night of Gothic, Metal, EBM and electro industrial courtesy of DJs Asmodeus, Lean, Swan and Angel at Poxx Bar, Paceville. Entrance is €5 - which includes a free ticket and a gift raffle. Doors open at 21:00. For info and tickets contact DJ Swan at 79710681. www.the4th.tk

DANCE AND THEATRE

Final performance tonight
In search of Simone
Theatrecore will be commemorating the 100th anniversary of the French feminist philosopher Simone de Beauvoir with a performance at St James Cavalier, written and directed by Tyrone Grima. The cast includes Monica Attard, Mireille Mifsud and Sarah Camilleri. Performances start at 20:00.

March 18, 19
Verve ‘08
The Dance Workshop will be presenting its 9th annual dance production at St. Agatha’s Auditorium in Rabat. Entitled Verve ’08, this production is divided into two parts.
The first is a children’s ballet based on a Maltese legend and poem. In the second part of the performance, Malta’s most talented dancers will present the works of established local choreographers. Tickets at €12 and €9 are available from the Dance Workshop at the National Pool Complex, Gzira and The Dance Studio, Sliema Road, Kappara. Ticket hotline: 99429233, 21242465.
March 28 - 30
Minn Wara z-Zipp
Unifaun Theatre present their very first Maltese production, with a script by Trevor Zahra. The play is directed by Chris Gatt and the cast includes Jean Pierre Busuttil, Renato Dimech and ‘Snits’ Spiteri. Tickets may be purchased from the Booking Office in Valletta, tel. no. 21 246389, fax no. 21 237340, email: bookings@teatrumanoel.com.mt and website: www.teatrumanoel.com.mt.

April 5, 6
Peter and the Wolf
Following last year's Magic Flute, the Manoel Theatre will be presenting another show for children: Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf. The re-orchestration and musical direction is by Sarah Spiteri while the choreography is done by Emma Loftus. The cast includes: Chris Agius Darmanin and Jules Sacco (Peter/Hunter) Florinda Camilleri (Bird) Clarissa De Giorgio (Cat) Yanica Fenech (Duck), Jes Sciberras (Wolf)Toni Attard (Grandfather) and Erin Stewart Tanti – (Hunter). The musicians are Godfrey Mifsud, Ulrike Buhlman, Renzo Spiteri, Christine Vella, Albert Garcia, Silvio Zammit and Sarah Spiteri.
The performances will take place on April 5 at 6.30pm and on April 6 at 4.30pm and 6.30pm. Special prices will be on offer for families. Bookings can be made by phoning the booking office on 21246389, via on line booking system (www.teatrumanoel.com.mt) or by sending an email to booking@teatrumanoel.com.mt

MUSIC

March 24
BJs Live Music Marathon
The Annual BJs Live Music Marathon in Paceville starts at 5pm. Local musicians and bands will play non-stop for the entire week. The aim of the initiative is to collect money for charity and to help preserve live music as a form of entertainment. There are still free places left for musicians. Those interested in participating are to contact Philip Fenech on 99493534.

March 29, 30
Akustika
An acoustic evening at the St James Cavalier music room. Featuring Carlo Muscat on saxophone, Luke Vella Clark on percussions, Martina Falzon on piano, Mario Farrugia on bass, Antonio Olivieri and Malcolm Bonnici on guitars and Isabel Zammit and Justin Galea on vocals. Starts at 20:00. Tickets are at €7. Book at St James by phoning 21223200. info@akustika@zhnmalta.org

April 3
I Fagolini
Renowned British vocal ensemble I Fagolini will be presenting Claudio Monteverdi's Flaming Heart, under the musical direction of Robert Hollingworth at Phoenicia Hotel in Floriana. The concert in Malta is an extension of the annual BOV Opera Festival at Teatru Manoel. The concert is organised in collaboration between the British Council and bookings, through the Teatru Manoel, can be made by phoning the booking office on 2124 6389, via online booking system (www.teatrumanoel.com.mt) or by sending an email to bookings@teatrumanoel.com.mt

EXHIBITIONS

Until March 20
New Faces 2008
Gallery G is showcasing the work of 11 up-and-coming artists as selected by the gallery's judging panel, in the fourth edition of 'New Faces'. Gallery G's exhibition halls and Gallery shop (No 4, Sir Ugo Mifsud Street, Lija) are open to the public between 09:00 and 17:00 on weekdays and 09:30 and 12:30 hrs on Saturdays. Contact details: 21421984/5. E-mail Address: grimand@medzone.com.mt

March 29 – May 4
Visage
An exhibition of drawings, etchings, oils and sculpture by Jesmond Vassallo & Francesco Astisculptures at the Contemporary Room, National Museum of Fine Arts, Valletta. Open Monday to Sunday from 09.00 - 17.00 (Last admission 16.30.)

Until March 30
Grazzi Malta
‘Grazzi Malta: An art exhibition with works by Olaug Vethal (1946-2007) whilst in Malta from 1988-2007’ will feature 40 works of art and other artifacts that reveal the relationship of this artist with the Maltese people whom she loved to paint. It is taking place at the St James Cavalier Upper galleries. This is the first exhibition and publication following the artist’s death on February 24. This exhibition will reveal the stylistic changes in her art from the very first presence of the artist on the island till the very last stages of her life, during her illness. The influences of the Maltese culture, people, way of life and light are reminiscent in her works following comparisons to when she first arrived.

Until April 6
Reading Cabinets
An installation by Raphael Vella at St James Cavalier. A corridor in the lower galleries of St James Cavalier has been transformed to house a unique display that presents many of the drawings in bright red plan chests with drawers that can be opened by viewers. Entitled Reading Cabinets, the exhibition also includes a number of large drawings that were produced after the Modern Art Oxford show and are being shown in public for the first time at St James Cavalier.

Until April 13
Boats, Balconies and Buildings
An exhibition of paintings and watercolours by Lionel Coates and Narinder Coates at Heritage Malta Head Office, Valletta.

April 18 - May 28
Ix-u jien
Exhibition of paintings by Dustin Cauchi at the Loggia, National Museum of Fine Arts, Valletta. Open from 09:00 until 17:00 (last admission at 16:30). The opening will also serve as a launch for Francesca Mangion’s book, which will feature illustrations by the artist.

Until April 15
WATCH
A collaboration between Vince Briffa (Malta), Ken G. Hay & Seetha A. (Moorland Productions – UK) and J. Michael Anderson (UK) at the Loggia, National Museum of Fine Arts, Valletta. Open Monday to Sunday from 09.00 - 17.00 (Last admission 16.30.)

Until April 30
Perception
Exhibition of paintings by Robert Farrugia at Juuls Bar, St Julian’s. Sponsored by Marsovin.
QUIZ NIGHTS

Thursdays
Quiz Nights held at Ciao Frà, Xemxija. Entrance next to Beachaven. Every Thursday at 21.00, tables team up to fill in a self-completion quiz pack of 40 general knowledge and current affairs questions. Winners receive Lm10 discount off their bill and a bottle of bubbly (both winners and runners-up). Participation fee Lm1. Reservations call: 99458567.




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