The Malta Independent 9 December 2018, Sunday

Lost for words

Marika Azzopardi Monday, 30 January 2017, 14:16 Last update: about 3 years ago

Most people will probably emerge mesmerised and perplexed. This exhibition welcomes only those who carry a certain age and with it an understanding or at least a knowledge of our island society's nuances, dark interests and instances of a past imperfect. Some personal baggage would not do any harm either, especially as the richer the baggage, the deeper the interaction with these works. Perhaps understanding is not even always possible, albeit the fact that nearly every single painting incorporates words that hint at some interpretation of meaning.

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Having followed Ryan Falzon's works over the past years, practically from the very first works he ever made public, I find this third solo, his most valiant and stimulating yet. His art is not demure or docile, not even slightly diplomatically poised and the artist makes no effort to have it any other way. This is straight in your face art, of the kind that leaves you reeling with the onslaught of information, the unheard screams of violence that, in such concentration, seem to be the only voices heard. And as the violence spills over to include deities and their apostles, even the saints are despairing and the gods are on their knees.
It seems as if his last solo was merely a tame warm up for this great eclectic maze of colour and collaged paintings, collages of all that is unspoken but known by the common knowledge of our people; indiscriminate, grossly base and angry at every corner. Falzon tackles all aspects of our human nature that we would, if we could, hide away. And in one fell swoop this artist has all but revealed it and it is there staring us in the face, painting after painting.

Falzon has no qualms at speaking his mind through these images, each of which captures attention for minutes on end. One feels compelled to stop and eke out an understanding out of every square inch of these eclectic conglomerations of shapes and riddles. The seemingly happy use of child-like drawing does not equal happy bliss, but rather translates in an art form that is about stark cruel reality. Humans are a nasty lot, weak, evil, tainted by lust, and every other unmentionable which the Ten Commandments warned us to avoid. Does one exit this exhibition feeling hopeless about life? Rather not - the works are invigorating, nourishing to curiosity and manage to engage inquisitive minds to enquire deeper.
We lost the war. Indeed, after reflecting upon Falzon's show, one feels that human nature seems to have lost the way along with the war. The artist touches upon all the idiosyncrasies which make us what we are, not only human and malleable but Maltese, still corsairs at heart and proud to not admit it. But art has certainly not lost face. This is the kind of art which speaks of its times, squarely, fairly and pointedly. This is the kind of art which not many will keenly hang on their walls. But it is the kind of art which speaks out, as it should, to express what most of our philosophers fear to mention. This exhibition reflects the society against which it is projected and all the social subterfuges which Falzon's generation have had to deal with and try to come to terms with. If Falzon is trying to tell us about it, he has succeeded completely.

'We Lost the War' is at St James Cavalier's Spazju Kreattiv until February 26, 2017.

Art by Ryan Falzon. Curated by Michael Fenech. The exhibition is supported by Malta Arts Fund and Spazju Kreattiv


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