The Malta Independent 3 December 2023, Sunday
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What are your guilty pleasures?

Sunday, 2 October 2022, 08:00 Last update: about 2 years ago

Melanie Erixon

Daniel Borg - Netfix 60x80cm, Oil on canvas, 2022
Daniel Borg - Netfix 60x80cm, Oil on canvas, 2022

That's what we shall be asking our visitors at our next collective exhibition at Boco Boutique Hotel, titled It's 5 o'clock somewhere - a collective exhibition exploring guilty pleasures.

I have been pondering about this theme for some time now. The subject stemmed from research that I was doing for a bigger artistic project and I felt it could be a good theme for an art exhibition. I am very lucky to be surrounded by artists who are ready (and happy) to create artworks around my (at times) bizarre themes. And truth is... collective exhibitions exploring some unusual theme, is one of my own guilty pleasures. And what better place than Boco Boutique Hotel to hold this exhibition - a place so much bursting with joie de vivre!


The artists who wanted to share their guilty pleasures or at least depict some guilty pleasures are Aaron Bezzina, Daniel Borg, Roderick Camilleri, Debbie Caruana Dingli, Rupert Cefai, Antoine Farrugia, Karl Fröman, Lawrence Pavia, Amelia Saint George, Mario Sammut and Darren Tanti. The participating artists were invited to portray instances of guilty pleasures, which can be their own, ones that they encountered or any other of their imaginative fantasies.

It's 5 o'clock somewhere comes from the famous phrase commonly used when one wants to have an alcoholic drink at like 10 in the morning, and to the sting of a guilty conscience, one declares (rightly so) that well it is 5 o'clock somewhere in the world. 5 o'clock is a common time for the end of the working day and when most bars start their "happy hour". Thanks to this phrase, the little guilt is hushed. It is a phrase that admittedly I tend to use often (guilty!), in fact once upon a time, I had also started a Facebook page about cocktails, titled It's 5 o'clock somewhere society!

Guilty pleasures are personal and intimate activities or habits that one should not do or should abstain from doing, and which do bring joy but also some guilt and shame. They might also be quite harmless, though still not necessarily accepted by society. We find ourselves quite out of control in these situations and everyone has a guilty pleasure or more, even though this is sometimes hard to admit.

The list of guilty pleasures is infinite, but if one had to name some common and favourite ones... excessive indulgence in chocolate, alcohol intake (especially during unexpected hours), sexual fantasies, being hooked on cheesy TV shows (binge-watching) and chick-flicks, book sniffing, swimming naked, excessive useless online shopping...

But let's see what our artists decided to share. And just before doing that, I would like to thank the participating artists who as mentioned, not only are happy to go along with my curious ideas but also some actually tell me that if it was not because of certain themes I come up with, they would have never done such works (out of their comfort zone), which I admit... gets me pretty high.

I'll start off with a topic that I can so much relate to personally. Daniel Borg is exploring the guilty pleasure of wanting to just do nothing, to avoid socializing, of the selfish alone time, of the hours "wasted" watching Netflix and for preferring social media than speaking to someone who is just next to us. Our lives have become excessively full (yet so empty) and too fast (yet reaching nowhere), and the luxury of the nothingness, to just stare and think, has become a luxury.

The works by Lawrence Pavia also on similar lines of feeling guilty for taking life easy - just relaxing by the pool and letting it all go, and another work - in a new style that he is experimenting on - shows his kitchen and how he just loves to be there in peace away from everything. Another work is showing a lonely prickly pear, which is a subject very much at his heart and features very prominently in his oeuvre.

Debbie Caruana Dingli in her Wara l-Kwinti, is portraying a man whose guilty pleasure is that of watching his wife dance naked for him. I personally can see two other guilty pleasures here - that of children watching something they shouldn't be watching and for exhibitionism.

Amelia Saint George is presenting four clay sculptures depicting backsides that do make you look twice, which encompasses the underlying guilty pleasure that of sneaking a peak at interesting backsides.

Mario Sammut was very intrigued by the theme, as it is not a subject he'd normally explore and he tackled three pleasures - the gossiping, the extra drink or three in his sculpture Happy hour and last but not least, a sculpture showing a glimpse of what happens After hours.

When discussing the subject with my friend and sculptor Antoine Farrugia, as an example of a guilty pleasure, I mentioned that I am embarrassed to say that sometimes I eat three ice creams a day, he decided to indulge me and made a sculpture of an empty ice cream cone (and ate the ice cream himself).

Karl Fröman's three works can almost be seen as a triptych. He plays with a bizarre palette, expressing a dominant green representing envy for those who are not embarrassed of their guilty pleasures but manage to embrace them in their daily life. One works focuses on the artist himself, encapsulating quite some of his guilty pleasures. Another piece "tickles us with pleasures of the flesh masking themselves under a decorative and beautiful veil reliving those who partake in enjoying a sexualised show of the guilt in admitting the less respectable aspect of the wonderful erotic art of burlesque". And the third artwork is about things we must not do (or shouldn't do).

Darren Tanti's 'Memento Mori' represents a skull with a prophylactic over its mouth and delves on the cycle of life, which the human being found ways to defy. The pleasure in enjoying the sexual act of procreation and being in power of controlling life, contrasting with the guilt of using preservatives and disrupting the cycle of life, itself.

Rupert Cefai brings works related to the use of masks - so many facets around the symbolisms of masks. Two works are from his ongoing series on the same theme of "a girl hiding her face and holding an object in her hands" - objects brimming with symbolisms. Another work is showing a reclining figure who is also wearing a mask - a gas one - symbolizing oppression and sexual fetishes.

The artwork by Roderick Camilleri "unveils humankind's fetish and hedonistic approach related to self-projections. It presents the artificial representation of oneself, deceptive inflated appearances and fraudulent imagery of personas. It unfolds an implicit and silent indicative narrative, articulating the grim reality of the popular profusion of contemporary false identities".

From self-projections we go to narcissism, and this is intricately captured by Aaron Bezzina's objet d'art, his Study for handheld mirror or Narcissus, which is inspired from ancient Egyptian hand-held mirrors but here the handle is "adorned" with spikes, which makes it impossible to use. But worry not, Bezzina positioned this mirror masterly in a bespoken "cabinet", where the viewer will be able to have a glimpse of oneself. This ties up with his ongoing series of works dealing with "anti-interactivity".

To conclude, I feel that these little indulgences are what makes life fun, especially through stressful times and this exhibition aims to celebrate the guilty pleasures. As mentioned in the beginning, we will ask our visitors to share some guilty pleasures, anonymously of course, by writing them down on pieces of paper which will be collected. I admit I am not sure yet what we will do with these shared guilts - maybe an installation, maybe info and data for another exhibition, but surely it will be terrific to go through them.

The exhibition is curated by Melanie Erixon. 

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