The Malta Independent 17 June 2024, Monday
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Exploring the depths of materiality and memory

Saturday, 4 May 2024, 16:19 Last update: about 2 months ago

Victor Agius' solo exhibition: "Inearth, Unearth: Archives of Matter and Ritual". Photos: Elisa von Brockdorff

"Inearth, Unearth: Archives of Matter and Ritual" is a solo exhibition by acclaimed Gozitan artist Victor Agius, curated by Elyse Tonna. Marking a decade since Agius last exhibited at Space C with Project Ġgantija 2013, curated by Vince Briffa, this multidisciplinary exhibition promises a captivating exploration of materiality, memory and the human condition.

"Inearth, Unearth: Archives of Matter and Ritual" is a testament to Agius' profound engagement with the materials fundamental to his artistic practice. Through meticulous excavation and introspection, Agius unearths traces of individual and collective memory, illuminating ancestral legacies and contemporary existential dilemmas alike. As he scatters and turns over the metaphorical soil of human experience, Agius reveals treasures akin to torsos in a collector's gallery.

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Natural materials, such as soil, stone, and clay, serve as poignant repositories of meaning and memory in Agius' work. Mirroring the attitudes and livelihoods of civilisations across history, these materials bear witness to the cyclical process of discovery, recollection, and exploration. With a keen focus on Gozo's geological and archaeological heritage, Agius employs matter and ritual as primary methods for his artistic exploration, crafting a narrative that transcends time and space.

Yet, Agius' engagement with materials extends beyond the natural realm, encompassing synthetic substances like concrete and cement. Reflecting contemporary consumerist and capitalist ideologies, these materials hold cultural and societal significance, embodying the complex interplay between tradition and progress: "Victor constantly references and reshapes his work to dig deeper into this primordial symbolism in order to find new ways to carry his 'mother/matter' analogy and transpose it to resonate within a contemporary sensibility." (Vince Briffa, 2024).

Structured into four thematic chapters, Inearth, Unearth: Archives of Matter and Ritual unfolds as an evocative investigation of each material's layers of significance. Through Agius' work, every material becomes a living archive, juxtaposing diverse characteristics and values inherent to it. Explored through the subjective lens of the artist himself, these works transcend mere symbolism, prompting critical reflection and contemplation of existential concerns. As viewers journey through the exhibition, they are invited to unravel the complexities of existence and explore the enduring resonance of materiality.

Prof. Vince Briffa, in his inaugural speech stated that: "This exhibition therefore is multifaceted, a project in which the artist in collaboration with the curator, invites us to participate in dialogues that cross traditional artistic boundaries to rethink the archival turn through a multi-layered engagement with the related fields of fine art, archaeology, performance, and cultural heritage interpretation."

Since 2017, Agius has embarked on a long-term collaboration with curator Elyse Tonna, which has spanned public art performances, exhibitions and publications, each project revealing new layers of his artistic practice. From "Human Matter" in 2017, to "ħaġarna" in 2019, to "In Dialogue" in 2022, Agius and Tonna have collaborated uncovering aspects of Agius' interdisciplinary practice, nurturing a relationship that unfolds core aspects of Agius' body of works.

A number of events will be taking place throughout the exhibition including an Artist-Curator Tour taking place on 8 May 2024 at 7pm.

"Inearth, Unearth: Archives of Matter and Ritual" is a solo exhibition by Victor Agius, curated by Elyse Tonna at Spazju Kreattiv, Valletta and runs till 19 May. It is supported by Arts Council Malta and APS Bank.


Victor Agius

Victor Agius, a multi-disciplinary artist residing in Gozo, Malta, draws inspiration from the island's ancient sites and rituals. His diverse practice spans sculpture, painting, video, performance, and installation. Rooted in his local landscape, Agius explores

universal existential themes, particularly humanity's relationship with the earth. His work, informed by an archaeological approach, delves into formless matter, reflecting spiritual, ritualistic, and everyday interactions with the environment. With a background in sculpture and education from institutions in Malta, Italy, and the UK, Agius has exhibited extensively both locally and internationally. He co-founded the Ars Vitae Ensemble and has contributed as a visiting lecturer at the University of Malta.


Elyse Tonna

Elyse Tonna (b.1990) is an independent curator and architect with a decade-long commitment to the Maltese cultural and creative sectors. Her curatorial research centres on ecological thinking, the post-/Anthropocene, speculative futures and living heritage. She overlaps these with spatial awareness to facilitate the creation of site/context-specific and immersive experiences. Currently, she is the co-Curator of I WILL FOLLOW THE SHIP, the Maltese Pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2024. Tonna is also the co-Creative Director and Curator of the Gabriel Caruana Foundation, a collaborator with Unfinished Art Space and a co-founder of no.site.studio. Her public art project, fuse, was shortlisted as one of the Top 75 Most Inspiring Projects of the New European Bauhaus. Tonna's international involvement includes fellowships with the Salzburg Global Forum and the Global Cultural Relations Platform.


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