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CULTURE | Sunday, 29 June 2008

A taste of Ebba’s sketches

By Franica Pulis

Currently NUVO art & dine is exhibiting the first commemorative exhibition of Ebba von Fersen Balzan organised by her husband Saviour Balzan and Nuvo. The choice of the German restaurant as Saviour said was “significant. It was here that we spent our last suppers together... It was here that we enjoyed some very precious moments.”
Ebba’s Sketchbook was inaugurated by Ingeborg Beggel, Deputy Head of Mission from the German Embassy and Vince Briffa, Artist and Art Director on the 17 June. Friends attended the opening; artists, some of whom worked closely with Ebba, and distinguished guests including Minister Carmelo Mifsud Bonnici and Labour MP Helena Dalli. Nuvo’s patron chef Stefan Shulte opened the night and invited all guests to savour of his delicacies and Franken red and white wines.
In her speech Beggel compared Ebba’s strength with that of the females fighters fighting during the struggle for the independence of Eritrea. She compared the independent mindedness and perseverance in the Eritrean female fighter to Ebba.
Vince Briffa who knew Ebba spoke about the intimacy an artist’s sketchbook holds.
“To speak about an artist’s sketchbook is really to speak about a person’s compelling desire to draw what he or she observes from life; of someone’s very own personal journal brought about by the gathered experience of this journey we call life.
“A sketchbook provides us with a live record of an artist’s process of visual thinking and reveals the deepest aspects of one’s creative process. Indeed, it finds its parallel in a writer’s urge to describe. A sketchbook is a place where one dialogues with oneself, where one draws, writes and scribbles – it is a descriptive testimonial of some of the most intimate moments of one’s experiences.”
The exhibition, as its title suggests, is made up of 65 sketches chosen arbitrarily by Art student Gulja Holland. These sketches portray mainly Maltese and foreign landscapes in ink, pastels and some in oil. Some of these sketches led to larger works of art. However, some of them are a finished product in themselves.
In his note on his German-Maltese wife and her art, Saviour Balzan wrote: “It is my way of celebrating her memory in a short time since her death.
“Discovering her extensive work in her studio in Malta and Brittany was an experience. It led me to understand the inspiration for many of her studio works which are in themselves too complex to be exhibited without some careful attention to presentation… something I am unable to do by myself. The works here are just a taste of the dozens of her undiscovered sketchbooks.”
He added, “Being with her was a patient but unique experience. I am artistically unable to describe the profoundness of her work. Ebba would always say it is not important to understand a painting – if it conveys an emotion, and you like it or it means something to you – then it means the painting is worth something.”
Vince Briffa ended his speech saying: “We are privileged to witness this collection of pages taken from Ebba’s beloved sketchbooks. Ebba is here presenting us not only with her own live record of the places she’s been to in order to paint or sketch, but is also, through this modest but wonderful collection, showing us her technical and creative resourcefulness; her progression of ideas and investigation into forms, colour and character. Most of all, through such work, Ebba is here laying bare full evidence of her inquiring mind.
“…These private sketches, drawings and paintings are evidence of Ebba’s commitment, conviction, and determination to take the road less traveled.”
Ebba’s Sketchbook can be viewed until 18 September at NUVO art & dine, 104, Zonqor Street, Marsascala.
All proceeds will go to Din l-Art Ħelwa.

For further details about Ebba von Fersen Balzan’s work please contact Saviour Balzan on sbalzan@mediatoday.com.mt


It’s that time of year again…

The third edition of the Malta Arts festival will be taking place between July 1 and 17. This year, more than 200 artists (a substantial number of which will be foreign) will grace venues in Valletta, Floriana and Sliema to make up the central cultural event of the summer. Teodor Reljic speaks to artistic director Mario Frendo about what we can look forward to for this year’s festival.

What are some of the highlights of this year's festival?
Around 225 artists, with more than half being Maltese, will be performing this year in the Malta Arts Festival. All performances have something different to offer in their own right, so it’s difficult to point out highlights, really. We have artists of international repute; both Maltese and foreign, and others who are younger, whose talent is of the highest standard and whose performances we are sure will go down well with our ever-growing audiences. This is a balance we always try to maintain: to have established artists performing on the same platform with the more experienced ones.

What did you learn from last year?
Last year we were aware that for the festival to grow it needs acts of international fame. By International I do not mean foreign, but rather, events of a level which will attract attention when one looks at the programme. The Caravaggio: “Quote…Unquote” exhibition featuring five Maltese artists was a case in point, together with Puerto Flamenco of Francesca Grima, Carmine Lauri’s recital with John Alley, the principal keyboard player of the London Symphony Orchestra, the duo featuring cellist Enrico Dindo and pianist Pietro De Maria, and the presence of prominent theatre group Odin Teatret. These gave a certain weight to the festival, which paid back positively this year considering the amount of requests from foreign artists to participate in The Malta Arts festival. That Maltese artists would want to participate in a Maltese festival is obvious, what is an important step forward is the fact that the festival is attracting the attention of artists beyond our shores. This augurs well for the growth of the festival in the future.

In what way will this year's edition be catering to different audiences/age groups?
From the very first edition in 2006 the festival always catered for different audiences and age groups. This third edition is no exception, with events ranging from popular to more avant-garde and research performances. I don’t like the idea of categorising audiences by age group or any other label. Our aim is to present the widest possible range of genres and styles without imposing any particularly. What I mean is that when one is designing a programme of this sort, one has to keep in mind to balance the events as much as possible. What we strongly believe is that as a country Malta needs to promote its own - but not exclusively - contemporary art more vigorously. In order to gain respect on the artistic level, a country needs to promote not only what it already has, but what it produces. Contemporary art is a manifestation of the fact that art is alive and that structures are sound for this to happen. The visual art exhibitions this year by Richard England and Patrick Fenech support our commitment. Moreover, this year we launched the Contemporary Music series, which will feature only contemporary music. The first of three concerts in this series will present music by contemporary Maltese composers, thus proving that this reality is strong in Malta and all it needs is that we believe in it and promote it.

How do you think the various artistic genres are spread out and represented this time around?
Regarding genre and styles, the festival offers a wide spectrum. From classical music to jazz and contemporary music, an acoustic pop gig by local band Chasing Pandora, a choir recital by The New Choral Singers, a spectacular concert called ‘A tribute to the Stars’ and a performance of Egyptian music by virtuoso Oud player Hazeem Shahine; theatre from Shakespeare presented by London’s Globe Theatre to Chekhov produced by Maltese production company Actinghouse Productions and Odin Teatret from Denmark, a Maltese play in English by Vince Vella, a theatrical project celebrating Maltese playwright Francis Ebejjer and street theatre by Spanish group Azar Teatro; dance from the Ballet National de Marseille to Puerto Flamenco’s Apacheando; visual arts by artists Richard England and Patrick Fenech. All these are spread over the 17 days of the festival. Strada, the street party, will be back this year following last year’s success. We are also introducing the Marsovin Summer Wine Festival this year. Maltese pianist Stefan Cassar together with French ensemble Quator Stringendo is this year’s curtain raiser.

What can you tell me about the venues chosen this year? Floriana seems to be a popular new addition...
This year, in fact, we will not be limiting ourselves to Valletta. The Argotti Gardens and the La Vittoria Bastion – Ospizio in Florana will also be used. The latter is a new venue and will be used for the first time during the festival this year. It is part of the gardens within the bastions surrounding Floriana. It’s a very interesting place which is proving to be very inspiring for the artists working in it. Ghar id-dud in Sliema will also be used this year.
There are various foreign acts on the program. What was their reaction to being asked to perform in Malta?
It is rarely a problem to get artists over to Malta. I mean, after overcoming the financial hurdle, it’s amazing how many artists reply that they are looking forward to visit our island. A good example is tenor Ian Bostridge, who will be performing together with pianist Julius Drake. He said that following his studies in history, he is particularly intrigued by his visit to our Island after having read about Malta during his student days. We tend to forget Malta’s rich culture and the fact that artists who visit us are always glad to have experienced it. As much as we look forward to share their art, foreign artists are usually aware of our rich culture and history shows that Malta was always a centre where cultures met and converged. This is in fact one of the aims of the Malta Arts Festival: to act as agent for this process of convergence to carry on.

The Festival’s sponsors include the Malta Council for Culture and the Arts, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Youth and Sports, the National Lotteries and Good Causes Fund within the Ministry of Finance, HSBC, BOV, the Malta Tourism Authority and the Valletta Local Council.

Tickets to all events are available online from maltaticket.com, or from any of the following outlets in Malta and Gozo: Exotique, Agenda, Vodafone, Bookends and Newskiosk. For more information and a full programme of events visit to www.maltaculture.com and www.maltaartsfestival.com


What's on

NIGHTLIFE

July 5
Salvation
Gay Pride party at Groove Gardens, Gianpula from 22:30. Featuring Ira Losco and DJs Andy Luca and Coco Da Housebitch. Also featuring international DJ Pier Morrocco and entertainment from The Phoenician Jockeys and Klozet. Tickets are at €10.50, available from MatchMusic, Offshore, Cucoo's and Collezione. Ticket hotlines: 79272601, 79292107.

THEATRE AND DANCE

July 2 - 5
The Pardon Beggars
A stage version of the radio play by Vincent Vella, which was selected as regional winner for Europe in the BBC World Service and British Council International Radio Playwriting Competition 2007. Directed by Chris Gatt and featuring Pia Zammit, Coryse Borg, Manuel Cauchi and John Suda. Tickets may be purchased from Exotique, Agenda, Vodafone, Bookends and Newkiosks outlets, as well as from www.maltaticket.com

July 5 - 9
Macbeth
MADC will be presenting Shakespeare’s Macbeth at Fort St Elmo, as directed by the Australian director Geoffrey Borny. The cast includes Paul Portelli, Charlotte Grech, Alan Paris, Jean Pierre Aguis, Colin Willis, Paula Fleri Soler, Faye Paris, Katherine Brown and Maxine Calleja Urry. www.madc.biz

July 8 - 11
Vaudevilles
Actinghouse Productions presents two comedies by Anton Chekhov (On the Harmfulness of Tobacco and The Bear) at the La Vittoria Bastions, Floriana (down the road from the public library). The performances will be accompanied by traditional Russian music by accordionist Yuri Charyguine and violinist Nemanja Ljubinkovic. Book tickets from www.maltaticket.com or Exotique, Agenda, Vodafone, Bookends and Newskiosk.

July 11, 12
Puerto Flamenco’s Apachenado
Puerto Flamenco will be performing at the Argotti Gardens, Floriana from 21:00. Tickets are at €15. Book from www.maltaticket.com or purchase from all Exotique, Agenda, Bookends, Vodafone and Newskiosk outlets.www.puertoflamenco.com, www.myspace.com/puertoflamencospace

MUSIC

July 4
Areola Treat E.P. launch
The band will be launching their self-titled EP at Poxx Bar, Paceville accompanied by Cable 35 and DJ Jeanz. Doors open at 21:30, entrance is free upon purchase of E.P. at €10, €6 without E.P.

July 4, 5
Jazz Fringe!
Fringe! Productions presents the second edition of the international jazz festival, held at the Argotti Gardens, Floriana. The first night will feature the Prez-Pilon group from Paris and 3por6 from Brazil. The second night will feature the Germany-based pianist Christophe Adams, who will be playing from 21:00. The final act will be the renowned Italian musician Nico Gori. For more information visit www.myspace.com/jazzfringe

July 6
Colour Me - A spectrum of Baroque Music
Dorothy Baldacchino, Elaine Borg and Rachel Curmi, accompanied by Ramona Zammit Formosa, will be presenting a recital of Baroque songs, arias and sacred works by Bach, Caccini, Giordani, Gluck, Handel, Lotti, Paisiello, Pergolesi and Purcell at St Catherine’s Church of Italy, Valletta from 11:00.

July 9
Winter Moods + Salt
Courtesy of NnG Promotions and Vodafone Music Jam, Winter Moods will be playing a mega summer concert at the Valletta Waterfront, supported by Salt. General standing tickets are at €10 each. Vodafone customers get a free ticket with every ticket purchased. A limited number of VIP tickets are available at €20 each. Tickets are available from Vodafone Retail Outlets and Exclusive Dealers, Exotique, Agenda Bookshop and online at www.maltaticket.com. www.wintermoods.net

July 19
Nomad Son/Archaic Descent
The metal bands will be performing at Poxx Bar from 21:00. Nomad Son will be launching their CD, ‘First Light’. Entrance is at €7, free entrance with each CD purchased. www.nomadson.com, www.archaicdescent.com

July 26
Extreme Maltese Metal Festival
20 local bands will be divided into metal and rock stages during the festival, taking place at Montekristo Estates, Siggewi from 15:00. Entrance is at €20. Transport to the venue will be available from Phoenicia Hotel, Floriana at 15:00 and after the event at 02:30. For a full list of the bands playing log on to www.extrememaltesemetal.com

Wednesdays
Unplugged Wednesdays
Acoustic music at Townhouse 5, Republic Street, Rabat. Starts at 21:00 and entrance is free. To get to Townhouse 5, drive into Rabat's main street, passing the petrol station, and make a second turning on the right. For reservations call 27500055.

EXHIBITIONS

Until 5 July
tourism.com
A joint video installation by Ruth Bianco and Richard Davies at the Loggia Gallaries at the Loggia, National Museum of Fine Arts, Valletta. Free Entrance. Open Monday to Sunday from 09.00 - 17.00 (last admission 16.30).

Until July 10
Bloodline
A selection of artworks by Esprit and Simon Barthet, Giuseppe Cali’, Mary de Piro and Philippa Bianchi, Antoine, Gerald and Antoine-Paul Camilleri, Victor and Andrew Diacono, the brothers Edward and Robert and Debbie Caruana Dingli, Blanche Ellul Sullivan and Anna Grima, Arnold and Nicola Sultana at Gallery G, no. 4, Sir Ugo Mifsud Street, Lija. Open between 09:00 and 17:00 on weekdays and 09:30 and 12:30 on Saturdays. Contact details: 21421984/5. E-mail Address: grimand@medzone.com.mt.

Until July 13
Bla Rima
Exhibition of abstract work on canvas by Jolene Cini and Sarah Spiteri at the GWU Hall, Valletta. Open Monday to Friday from 08:30 to 19:00

Until July 20
A Commonwealth of Diverse Cultures Poland’s Heritage
A multi media exhibition consisting of 10 short documentaries on Poland’s cultural heritage held at the Atrium of St James Cavalier. Organised by the Embassy of The Republic of Poland and St James Cavalier Centre for Creativity, the films present a general history of Poland and the National Library in Warsaw, and the different traditions whose legacy has influenced the Polish contemporary culture.

Until 20 July
Antique Chinese Ceramics
Exhibition of ancient Chinese ceramics at Fort St Angelo, Vittoriosa, organised by Heritage Malta in collaboration with the Soveriegn Military Order of Malta.

Until 26 July
Mile of paper
A bookart installation created by the current MA/MFA student artists and tutors working on the Fine Art master programmes at the University College for the Creative Arts, Kent UK. Taking place at the Painting Gallaries of the National Museum of Fine Arts, Valletta. Open Monday to Sunday from 09.00 hrs - 17.00 hrs (last admission 16.30).

Until 27 July
Autofictions
An exhibition of paintings by Axel Plöger at the National Museum of Natural History, Lower Courtyard, Vilhena Palace, Mdina. Open Monday to Friday from 09.00 - 17.00 (last admission 16.30).

Until July 31
Caesar Attard
The artist will be exhibiting at Bank of Valletta, Santa Venera. Opening hours: Monday to Friday - 08:00 - 17:00 and Saturday - 09:00 - 13:00

FESTIVALS
Until July 12
Kinemastik Short Film Festival
This year's festival will include films from Belgium, UK, Norway, France, Germany and more. It will be opening at St James Cavalier at 20:00 with a night of 13 short films. The screenings at the festival's standard Gnien Il-Gardjola venue in Valletta will take place on July 11 and 12 from 20:00. Tickets for one night are at €5 and €9 for both nights. For more the full programme visit www.kinemastik.org


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