The Malta Independent 24 September 2021, Friday

A room of one’s own: A multimedia diary

Sunday, 1 August 2021, 09:00 Last update: about 3 months ago
‘Memento-Mori’, 2021, acrylic on carboard, 65 x 107.3cm (Photo: Emma Borg)
‘Memento-Mori’, 2021, acrylic on carboard, 65 x 107.3cm (Photo: Emma Borg)

A Room of one's own: A multimedia diary formed part of a joint exhibition entitled Strada Stretta Occupy by Students which was held at the Società Dante Alighieri in Old Bakery Street and at The Splendid in Strada Stretta, both located in Valletta. The exhibition was organised by the Fine Arts Programme within the Department of Art and Art History at the University of Malta and the Strada Stretta Concept, of which Prof. Giuseppe Schembri Bonaci is coordinator and artistic director respectively.


The works exhibited by Martina Darmanin were part of her B.A Hons dissertation, under the supervision and guidance of Dr Gilbert Calleja. This installation seeks to question the nature of the space, objects and people we surround ourselves with and how they become a direct extension of the self. This project was expanded upon during the Painting Workshop module under the tutelage of Schembri Bonaci, with the extended works being exhibited last June at The Splendid.


Diary Monotypes (24 paintings), 2020, monotypes, 14.81 x 21.01cm (Photo: Emma Borg)

A room is, by definition, a building enclosed by walls, which can, however, also be presented as an architecture of the self, painting a portrait of the occupant. With most of our time being spent inside due to the issue of Covid-19, the room has almost become a daunting place to be in - a place in which we are consumed by boredom. It carries memories, faces, familiarity, and other intimate moments from our daily life which may often feel suffocating. Such personal memories can latch onto the room and give it an almost anthropomorphic state where materiality may remind us of a particular individual or a fleeting moment. Darmanin found this mental exercise of association incredibly compelling to explore, which led her to delve into multiple literary works of Virginia Woolf, who explores this stream of consciousness method. To Woolf, the idea of a room becomes a vessel to delve into the self and the people around her, as each object is bound by a story which may elicit a myriad of memories and emotions.

This exhibition was an invitation for the viewer to enter Darmanin's own room and experience the intimacies of everyday life. What stands at the forefront of the works presented within the exhibition is the juxtaposition of the false feeling of permanence that objects may exude as a form of solace, against the alarming truth of mortality. It is extremely ironic that the object often outlives the human being, which may act as a shocking realisation of memento mori. The room and its objects therefore breathe the human experience and condition, making them as alive as we are.

‘The Armchair’, 2020, acrylic on cardboard and photograph, 41 x 44.6cm and 59.4 x 42cm (Photo: Emma Borg)

This idea is directly dealt with within the work, which places a painting of a sleeping figure/s against a photograph of their location of slumber. In order to explore this idea of impermanence, Darmanin also produced a series of monoprints that act as an introspective view into everyday life activities and faces.

In a Room of one's own, Virginia Woolf makes an insightful comment that "in solitude we give passionate attention to our lives, to our memories, to the details around us". With this being said, the intention of this exhibition is to embrace the ennui that often comes along with everyday life and take time to look at what we occupy and what occupies us.

The works exhibited in Strada Stretta Occupy by Students can be found in two locations: Società Dante Alighieri in Old Bakery Street and The Splendid in Strada Stretta, Valletta. The works discussed here were exhibited at the Società Dante Alighieri from 2 to 22 July.

Strada Stretta Occupy by Students was organised by the Department of Art and Art History, the University of Malta and The Strada Stretta Concept, as part of the Valletta Cultural Agency 2021 programme, in collaboration with the Società Dante Alighieri. 
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