The Malta Independent 19 June 2021, Saturday

A curatorial exercise through the pandemic

Marika Azzopardi Friday, 14 May 2021, 15:14 Last update: about 2 months ago

When a good friend askedme to curate his exhibition, I could not resist. For one thing, this is a friend. For another thing, I like and respect his work. A third reason? I had time on my hqnds. This was in the autumn on 2019 and I got cracking.

I went through the usual initial motions - discussing the project with the artist  and gauging where it was heading; seeking sponsorship whilst also visiting and sifting through potential venues. The exhibition promised to be one requiring not too huge a space but one with clout. Valletta was a must and so, we decided on the Malta Postal Museum. I managed to land an exclusive sponsorship arrangement for the show and the date was set for May 2020. By January 2020, nearly all was agreed on. The last conversation I had about the matter was with the person who was to organise the waitering service at the opening event. Then the pandemic struck.

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We all know what happened next. The only thing to be done was to wait it out. In the meantime, I negotiated with the the sponsor, cancelled food, drink and services bookings and keep spurring the artist on to maintain positive creativity levels going. As we discovered all the new virtual connectivity possibilities, I had meetings with artist/venue/sponsor/designers to attempt to select a new potentially viable date. Once the first set of restrictions lifted in the summer of 2020, we all figured out we could try and hold the exhibitoon in September 2020.

This time round, we knew it would not be possible to hold an opening event. No crowding would be safe, we were not even feeling safe meeting to discuss new paintings and etchings, which the artist had been busy producing throughout the lockdown. The works were exciting to say the least. Even as he struggled to receive new materials and equipment via an international postal system that had practically gone in tilt, he still kept at it with enthusiasm. 

Early in 2021, we figured out we could have a go at a new date and May 2021, a year away from the first original planned date, was set. Everything was re-juggled, re-scheduled, re-organised. Even as the momentum began building up, Covid-19 cases began increasing alarmingly once again, and the artist and I had long conversations on what to do, as we eyed the dismaying peak in contagion. Museums and exhibition spaces were shut down once again and we had to go through a nail-biting month of April, hoping that the pre-set date of re-opening in early May, would come to fruition. We went ahead nonetheless, staying focused and positive. The sponsor continued to back us, the venue's curator was patient, and supportive. All we needed was for the pandemic to lift its ugly head long enough to allow this project to materialise

It did. It has. The exhibition has opened with success. The artist, Roderick Camilleri has presented to the public an enticing collection consisting of etchings, oil paintings and woodcut. Monochrome, shades of colour and vibrancy come together in this, an ode to humankind's struggle for survival, an impetus to rise up above all that shackles the very essence of life.

In many ways, the very theme of 'Shadows of Reason' unwittingly reflects the very same struggle borne by the artist in giving birth to this first major solo of his. A newborn that made it against all odds. 

'Shadows of Reason' is showing at the Malta Postal Museum, 135 Archbishop Street, Valletta until Monday 17th.
Opening hours: Saturday 15 May - 10am-2pm; Sunday 16 May - 10:30am - 12:30pm; Monday 17 May  - 10am - 4pm. Entrance is free. 



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