The Malta Independent 30 November 2022, Wednesday
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Time, Space… and Palmyra: A Critique

Sunday, 18 September 2022, 09:35 Last update: about 3 months ago

By Prof. Louis Laganà. Associate Professor, University of Malta. An art historian, critic and artist

"We used to build temples, and museums are about as close as secular society dares to go in facing up to the idea that a good building can change your life and a bad one ruins it" - Alain de Botton (Contemporary British Philosopher)

Almost every day we see on television and hear in the news or read in newspapers about the terrible destruction of works of art and objects of cultural heritage internationally. In a collection of works presented at the Malta Society of Arts, Galina Troizky and Henry Alamango engage and address one of the most serious problems facing contemporary society, that of the degeneration of the natural landscape and the built environment.

The theme of this exhibition, Time, Space... and Palmyra, is a strong reflection not just about the destruction, iconoclasm and erasure of the cultural heritage of the ancient Syrian city, Palmyra, but also about many other places around the world which are facing the same fate for economic gain and propaganda. We know that 20% or more of this ancient city was destroyed or heavily damaged.

The destruction of cultural heritage is not happening by war only but also for commercial exploitation. It is today's chronic symptom of the times when people became more aggressive and materialistic and are exploiting nature's resources to make money for their own means.

In their art exhibition Troizky and Alamango have their own unique, creative expression and interpretation of what is happening in our environment today.

In her multi-layered collages and technical painterly interventions, Troizky shows a conceptual topography with arresting large-scale images of the scarred urban places expressing awe and devastation. Her conceptual artistic practice has no boundaries. She is fascinated by the spectacle of man-made destruction and environmental degradation. For example, if we look at her works Library of Babel, Lost Paradise and Endless Building, the artist conveys a powerful message about the danger of losing the beauty of non-urban areas that will be replaced by high concrete buildings. Land use and speculation increase demand for infrastructure and basic services and the attractiveness of rural areas will be lost. In the long run, well-being is also affected. In other works, Troizky has created exasperating images of high-rise buildings and symbols which clearly prove the intellectual battle between the world of contemporary architecture and the fine arts world.

On the other hand, Alamango is more romantic in his approach to painting. Stylistically, the artist is known for his bold contrasting colours and chiaroscuro to express the grandeur of the local landscape. In some works he depicts the timeless beauty of the Maltese scenery as it looked in the past and in other works the artist uses his creative expertise to demonstrate the ugliness versus the beautiful. He exhibits the brutalist method of building interventions and the misuse of architecture in rural places. For example, this is seen in his painting, The Last Nail, which illustrates a snap shot of Xlendi Bay and how it might look within a few years. Like Malta, Gozo is a jewel in the middle of the Mediterranean and its typical splendour is in danger of being lost. In another work, entitled The Last Neighbours, Alamango draws our attention to the existing problem that the inappropriate blending of the two styles of architecture threatens the harmony of "real" aesthetics as well as the cohesion of traditional communities. Many times, the uglification of the local townscapes is irreparable.

Troizky and Alamango are continuously using their work as a platform to raise awareness about ecological perils and why human constructions and interventions in the natural and built environment can destroy the beauty of our heritage.

Time, Space... and Palmyra by Henry Alamango and Galina Troizky will run until Friday, 30 September and in the evening of Saturday, 1 October especially for Notte Bianca between 7 and 11.30pm at the Malta Society of Arts in Valletta. Entrance is free.

For more opening hours and details about the exhibition please visit www.artsmalta.org/events or www.facebook.com/maltasocietyofarts

 


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