The Malta Independent 25 March 2019, Monday

Tactile to the cutting edge

Marika Azzopardi Tuesday, 4 December 2018, 10:15 Last update: about 5 months ago

A father and son event is always an interesting thing to witness. This one is particularly unique on many facets. The event is a collaboration in art; the father is an established artist, the son aspiring to become one. The common denominator is a tactile production and, it brings the two together in a spectacular one - this is the first time they have joined forces to showcase the genetic creativity they both bask in.

Paul Scerri is not new to local art scene circles. Thomas is slowly gaining some momentum and his name is becoming recognised among younger art aficionados. What has brought Paul and Thomas together is very obviously their art and this, in all its diversity, is presented under the umbrella title of Voracity. What's in the name?

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I meet up with father and son to view their works and to understand better. Paul explains: "The common theme revolves around a social characteristic we unfortunately witness and experience... voraciousness, greed, which leads to indifference. Ignorance is a large contributing factor."

I observe closely four figures, seated side by side, representing these human non-virtues - greed, ignorance, apathy and indifference. In varied and effective ways, Paul's faceless ceramic figures always speak an encrypted language, but only if they are detached from the theme of the day. The fascination with these figures is born out of curiosity and an urge to delve deeper in the artist's state of mind as he creates them. At first glance, the unwary might consider them comic, entertaining perhaps, strange. But the message beneath the ridicule is tangible, once you become aware of it.

Thomas' work is diametrically different. He gleaned inspiration for this show from the recent spate of tree uprooting, which was carried out to make space for urban projects on the island. Like his father, Thomas feels very strongly about social issues and the tree uprooting issue, led him to take to his studio and create something pretty much unusual. He takes chopped-off tree bark, branches and sometimes even roots, and combines them with raw iron, fusing the two alien materials into one whole composition. The works bring to mind steampunk characteristics, since they are all extremely fantastic, industrial looking and yet whimsically incomplete.

Thomas says, "I experimented widely in order to reach these results and the combination of the ravaged tree with the savage metal creates something pretty much extraordinary. The metal itself gives the impression of being indestructible. In some instances, I allowed it to lose its virginity... I prefer the iron to acquire some tainting and character, so I let the rust and subsequent wear set in before starting to work with it. This adds to the potential of the iron becoming even more unique when mixed and matched to the remains of a tree".

During this rare chance of interviewing two artists in one fell swoop, especially two who are so closely related, I have to ask them about each other... Paul looks back to the past and observes how Thomas always held a string fascination for iron. "As a 12-year-old, he would take empty milk tins, cut them up (and cut his hands in the process) and create metal boats or cars. I still have some of those little treasures." Thomas explains how he still loves working with metals of any kind, especially in larger formats, such as restoration projects on vintage cars.

What about Paul, the father and the artist? Thomas smiles warmly as he says, "It is best to stay out of dad's way when he emerges from his studio in a bad mood. It rarely happens, but when it does, it is generally due to a failed experiment with his creations".

Father and son laugh at each other's quirks, as I view the works with them and get a hint of how each developed his own artistic identity, the father way before the son, the son independent of the father, yet so very obviously inspired and encouraged. The pulse of the works, the reflection of each man's personality and the message that made it all come together, are enough to encourage a viewing of this exhibition. The spirit of each artist comes through clearly - you only need to look closely and feel strongly.

'Voracity - Sculptures' by Paul and Thomas Scerri. Open until 9 December at Lazuli Art, 83 Palm Street, Victoria Gozo. For more information phone on: 9943 6443, 2743 6443


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