Highlights of the 2017-18 Mdina Cathedral Art Biennale

BY RENAY ELLE MORRIS

© renay elle morris_ mdina, malta 2017

In the afterglow of the visual conversation “The Mediterranean: A Sea of Conflicting Spiritualities”_ the 2017-18 APS Mdina Cathedral Contemporary Art Biennale held in the country of Malta, I am delighted to showcase a selection of interpretive works authored by an international network of artists and curated by a talented team, guided by artistic director Dr.Giuseppe Schembri-Bonaci and Nikki Petroni. It was a global triumph_ a narrative explored with diverse translations, creating a visual display in various mediums_ painting, sculpture, photography, and multimedia platforms_ artistic voices heard through the most personal of presentations.

In this 2nd edition, at the impressive the Mdina Cathedral Museum, over 30 works were presented throughout the treasury. The interplay of the works, installed on different landings, led the viewer on a spiritual traverse_ and to the cavernous underground passageway leveled below_ an ethereal space in itself.

With an invitation to participate, I delight in the bonds of friendship that were made through this distinctive and highly creative opportunity. Thus, I am proud to share this journey, and thank all the wonderful artists, academics, clergy and business entities, as well as visitors that have made this not only an exhibition, but a forum for its timely theme of conflicting spiritualities, an important one.

The Artists_ The Works

Savina Capecci (in art Savina Kapecci)_ lives in Pordenone Italy, and studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Venice where she received her B.A. in Painting in 2014 and her Master Degree in 2016 with full marks. She worked as assistant to the professors in the classes of painting at the Free Academy of Fine Arts in Klagenfurt, Austria as well as participating in selected exhibitions.

Capecci has received several art awards with her work included in a variety of publications.

  • Premio Arte Cairo Mondadori Finalists exhibition, Palazzo Reale and Palazzo della Permanente, Milan
  • Transgenic Attack, Atelier der Stadt Klagenfurt, Austria solo exhibition
  • BV Sommerausstellung, BV Galerie, Klagenfurt, Austria
  • Memento Andy, Atelier 3+10, Venice
  • Fuori Uso, Avviso di garanzia, Ex Tribunal, Pescara
  • Premio Lilian Caraian, Museum of Modern Art Revoltella, Trieste
  • Incident III – Accident Czestochowa Museum, Poland

The works presented at the Mdina Biennale are titled “The PromiSSed land”. The painted images depict the human aspect of the current immigration crisis happening in the Mediterranean sea, and are expressive of the essence of the concept of “waiting” in all its forms and feelings that arise while sitting in a boat. The Promised land inevitably becomes a “pro-missed” land.

Courtesy of the artist_ The PromiSSed land

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James Alec Hardy_ born – 1979 in Colchester, England. The essence of James Alec Hardy’s practice is a process concerned with the impact of technologies on our experience of life. Since 2002, he has focused on analogue video systems, manifesting ideas through performance, sculpture, installation and print. By using obsolete devices from a former analogue age to reproduce digital functions, Hardy’s practice is challenging and engaging_ranging from building sculptural totems of video monitors, to 3 month long shamanic residencies in fields with I-Cabin, to 3 day long noise and feedback performances at The Tate Modern.

“With the truth being understood as subjective, the video sculptures I create do not limit freedom of thought, but stimulate choice. I aim to avoid manipulating the viewer by presenting ‘video as truth’, my work allows the video to function ultimately as the meditative stage for the mind, which unravels its own truth.”

1999-2002: Camberwell College of Arts, London
Present: Warrior Studios, London Represented by Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery London

Courtesy of the artist_“171111”

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Robert Stokowy_ is a sound artist, composer and artistic researcher from Cologne, Germany. His work entails experimental compositions, text based interventions, audiovisual performances and installations. All projects are framed by an overarching artistic research process, focussing on topics of instability, sensory balance, as well as qualitative characteristics and potentiality of sound and place. Stokowy’s site-specific Sound Installations are based on phenomenological practices and consist of small sounds which hold very haptic and organic qualities. With his works the artist wants to explore the potentiality of his sonic surroundings and give recipients access to experience new perspectives on their environment.

Since Stokowy’s work is first and foremost based on sound, a recording of the installation is available on his website.

Courtesy of the artist_ structures [mdina]

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Anthony Catania_ is a visual artist specializing in myths and fables. Often on the threshold of grotesque figurative painting, his style attempts to capture subversively idiosyncratic portraits of legendary beings embedded in bizarrely anachronistic settings. His personal exhibitions; Selve Oscure, The Cave of Centaurs, The Piper’s Requiem, Spectre-Bark and Last Light, were held at the Malta Museum of Fine Arts, the Malta Maritime Museum and Heritage Malta. Catania is a PhD candidate at the University of Malta, where he also received his MFA in Digital Arts with a distinction. Catania also worked as a concept designer for indie games, poster designer for theatre productions and illustrator of academic book covers. He currently lectures on illustration, primitivism and sequential art at the University of Malta.

Wilting Annunciation depicts the typical scene where the angel Gabriel announces the birth of Christ and incarnation of God. The announcement is that of Christ’s passion endured for humanity’s redemption from the agony in the garden of Gethsemane until His death on Calvary. It also depicts the passion of a Mater Dolorosa who will cradle the corpse of her son through fertile/dead sunflower seeds. Death and life are depicted in an oxymoronic manner.

Courtesy of the artist_ Wilting Annunciation

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Gor Chahal_ was born in Moscow in 1961 and is one of the most highly accomplished contemporary artists. His creative method synthesizes a scholastic approach with the elements of a ritual. Chahal is of a type rarely found in the Russian artistic community: a «universal master», with a diploma in science and applied mathematics, from the Moscow Engineering and Physics Institute, a contributor to numerous creative experiments undertaken in cooperation with groups of poets, musicians, and artists of Soviet-era Underground. But while the style of Chahal’s creations lie within the parameters of Actual Art, yet in substance they are at the other end of the spectrum. His themes often encompass faith and show a deep awareness that true art simply cannot exist without connection to tradition of the sacred, Christianity in this case.

Courtesy of the artist_St. George strikes Cy Twombly, 2017

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Michael von Cube_ Born – 1952, Cube lives and works in Munich, Lower-Bavaria and Malta.

The reality of the political situation in the Mediterranean surpasses the image of brutality by far, and so the picture remains what it should be and is – a helpless plea: art.

When Johann Wolfgang von Goethe set off on his travels to Italy, the Age of Enlightenment was of great significance in Europe. The education system and lifestyle of the ancient world was seen as the model for a civil society. Committed to ‚Goodness, Truth and Beauty‘ (Winckelmann), artists and romantics from all walks of like were drawn to the cradle of European culture: The Mediterranean. The painter Johann Heinrich Wilhelm Tischbein created the famous portrait of the German writer entitled „Goethe in the Roman Campagna“.

‘Europium‘ takes an ironic look at this idealistic approach or what is indeed left of it today: The princess of peace and her system of values surrounded by lemons symbolising a united Europe. It refers to the vision of the writer, Goethe, just like peace-game‘ does to the abolition of violence and war.

Courtesy of the artist_Europium

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Guy Ferrer_ is French, of Catalan and Italian descent. Over the past thirty years he has developed an international reputation as a painter and sculptor, with exhibitions in museums and galleries around the world. In addition to painting and sculpture his work also encompasses writing and architecture. Ferrer has worked in Paris, Los Angeles and other international cities, including New York, Caracas, Lima, Beijing and Johannesburg where he has created temporary studios. In 2012, the establishment of his studio in French Catalonia marked his return to the Mediterranean.

Recent honours include a monumental bronze sculpture for the French embassy in Singapore and a large fresco for the French embassy in Bakou (Azerbaijan). The OECD commissioned and permanently displays a large triptych by Ferrer entitled Liberté-Egalité-Fraternité.

“T.O.L.E.R.A.N.C.E”, a major sculptural work created in 2007 in response to contemporary religious tensions, has been widely acclaimed and displayed in France, Germany, Poland and the United Arab Emirates.

Ferrer’s work is represented in private and corporate collections around the world. He has developed artistic partnerships with several companies including Lefranc & Bourgeois, Champagne Jacquart and Le Bon Marché in Paris where Ferrer’s monumental bronze, La Pourvoyeuse, is a permanent installation.

Atelier Guy Ferrer – France guyferrer.com / Facebook

Courtesy of the artist_ Les Vigilants, 2007

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Zita Vilutyte_ (Lithuania) is a painter, musician, and composer, as well as founder and artistic director of the Holistic Theatre of Movement “S”. In addition, she is a neuropsychoeducator, lecturer, curator and journalist. From 2013-2016, Vilutyte was Director of the International Art project ANIMA MUNDI, and as of 2016, President of the association.

Her career includes over 40 personal exhibitions as well as joint creative projects in various countries, including Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, India, Italy, Denmark, Holland, Croatia, Germany, Georgia, England and Macedonia. In 2011 she received a bronze award in Art from the Five Golden Stars Gallery, Netherlands.

Other activities and participations, include:

  • The release of 17 solo music albums
  • Music Composition for film and theatre
  • Musical and visual projects in coordination with the music group “VARTAI”
  • The production of 4 music CD’s in a joint musical project with Lithuanian musicians
  • Membership in the Ambient Music Association’s “Ambient Music Garden” (U.K.)

Courtesy of the artist_ Exist, No Exit

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Ana Caterina Pereira_ believes that materials determine the way humanity operates and her work is centred on their composition and behaviour. She is also interested on the impact their existence have in our society, in particular architecture, politics and gender roles. Steel is Pereira’s material of choice – its chemical properties and reactions determine the subject of the work. She combines this metal with other materials in order to activate or counteract their intrinsic properties.

Pereira completed her Masters at Chelsea College of Arts in 2012, being awarded with Clifford Chance Prize the following year. In 2014, Pereira received the Royal British Society of Sculptors Bursary. The work shown at Mdina Biennal in 2015 represents the beginning of a new body of work that explored the rigidity that characterises steel.

Pereira’s work was selected for several listings and shown in a variety of occasions, including the Aesthetic Art Prize (2014), Signature Art Prize (2015), Anthology (2016) and First@108 (2017). This last experience opened her the desire to work outdoors, which was realised with “Now outside the doors of strange houses”. Based on the study of steel’s atomic structure, this sculpture is on show at Broomhill Sculpture Park till May 2018.

Courtesy of the artist_“not afraid of hot summer, nor of the frozen winter”

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Genia Chef_ was born in Kazakstan, in the former Soviet Union where his father, a photographer, had been banished during Stalin’s regime. Chef grew up in Moscow and studied graphic arts at the Polygraphic Institute receiving a Master of Fine Arts degree. He was awarded with the First Prize for his diploma (1977). After relocating to West Germany in 1985, he studied painting at the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts and was honoured with the Fueger Gold Prize (1993). He resides in Berlin.

Genia Chef is an author of theoretical works, including his “Manifesto of Post-Historicism”, and “Viva Canova”. Chef has participated in numerous museum exhibitions worldwide, including the F. Weisman Art Museum, Minnesota, Museum of Modern Art, Ostende, Belgium, Kunsthalle Baden-Baden, Germany, Palazzo Forti, Verona, Italy, State Russian Museum, Saint Petersburg, Yeshiva Univ. Museum, New York, Experimental Art Foundation, Adelaide, Australia, II Moscow Biennale, CUA Museum of the University of Colorado, Boulder, University of New Mexico Art Museum, Albuquerque, 55th and 56th Venice Biennale, Mdina Cathedral Biennale, Malta.

Courtesy of the artist_ Red Square

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Lena Lapschina_ graduated from State Stroganow University of Fine and Applied Arts in Moscow. She lives and works in Vienna and Lower Austria. Lapschina has won the Austrian State Grant for Video and Media Art and was awarded several prestigious residencies, including the Djerassi Residence Artists Program (Woodside, California), KuS (Heerlen, Netherlands), ORTung (Strobl, Austria), and Nordens Hus (Reykjavík, Iceland).

In Lapschina’s three-channel video installation “Runtime”, a character is moving with great haste. It does so for minutes, for hours, for days. There’s no aim in sight, not even a fata morgana. Synchronously a timepiece slowly but surely is wandering across the scene. While at first glance the character seems to be driven by customary stress and inner conflicts, it turns out that the piece is tackling the more sensitive issues of modern societies. If the attire of the character is any indication, it’s about civilization at large, which in the eyes of many people is at stake these days. Maybe the artist wants to remind us of two facts: 1. People on this planet have been running along the surface of the earth’s crust in search for paradise for ages. 2. It’s the Mediterranean, which once again is the arena of the world’s greatest conflicts.

Courtesy of the artist_ Runtime / site-specific three-channel video installation with sound; dimensions variable. 2017

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Aleko Lomadze_ is a Georgian artist whose work is iconographic in nature. His icons are housed in different temples in Georgia – Tbilisi, Ozurgeti, Choxatauri, and Xobi, as well as Vienna, Austria in the Holy Mother Temple. For nearly 15 years he has worked and noted for his work with draw milled stones, which is quite a time-consuming process. He collects the stones from all parts of Georgia with the assistance of associates. In addition to other mediums, he uses marble rug_ known for its radiance, and its use in painting.

Lomadze participates in different art projects, exhibitions, festivals, art seminars and workshops in Georgia and other countries including Lithuania, Latvia and Portugal. Many of his works are in private collections and public institutions throughout Georgia and abroad. With the blessing of the Georgian Patriarchate several works are kept in the Patriarchate.

In 2015 he joined the ANIMA MUNDI project.

Courtesy of the artist_ Abstract 2

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Nicola Arkell Reed_ is an artist and lecturer, with a BA and MA in Fine Art from Central St. Martins. Reed exhibited in the Cathedral Crypt at the Mdina Biennale in 2016 and prior to that had a solo show at the Rebecca Hossack Gallery, Mayfair, London. She won National Geographic Magazine’s photography competition and was published in their October 2016 issue. In addition, she has illustrated two published novels: Fox by Anthony Gardner and Tittle Tattle by Bill Keeling and has tutored Fine Art at Chelsea College of Art and the University of Gloucestershire as well as run drawing workshops at the University of Malta, Chelsea College of Art and The Idler Magazine.

Nicola Reed uses the medium of photography, film and printmaking in her work. For many years, and as a mother of six children, her work was focused on, and explored Mother Daughter Dynamics, using herself and her three daughters as the subjects for a body of work. As a supporter of the charity EthiopiAid, and visiting and photographing the people of Ethiopia since the late 1980s, Reed produced a series of photographic portraits focused on the dissipating tribes and cultures in Ethiopia with the intention to celebrate the individuality, unique style and personality that is so pertinent to the people of the Omo Valley in Southern Ethiopia. Her current project is inspired by her passion for bee-keeping and protecting bees from the current and serious threat to their existence. More examples of Nicola’s work can be found on her website.

Courtesy of the artist_The in between

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Merna Liddawi_ is an award winning British-Jordanian artist living in the UK. She is on a mission to capture the beauty of spiritual moments in our lives and deepen our connection with the Divine. Her unique technique of using traditional methods handed down from artisans, which she developed over many years, has caught the attention of art collectors, curators and art historians. Others have spoken of her work as “having an unexpected calming effect”.

After completing a science degree in Cairo, Liddawi moved to the UK where she taught Math for many years. She gained a BA in Fine Art and was awarded an MFA with distinction from West Dean College.

Liddawi’s work has been shown in several group exhibitions in London and had her solo show ‘Revelation’ at Asia House. She has exhibited internationally _ Venice and Portugal, and been selected for the Florence Biennale, Mdina Biennale in Malta as well as Artrooms London and Rome. She won the 2ndArtGemini Prize in Painting and Sculpture, and has been awarded the “Lorenzo il Magnifico” painting award in Florence. Liddawi is featured in several publications and has been nominated for the Edward James Foundation trustees award. Her paintings are housed in private collections in the Middle East, Europe, the USA and UK.

Courtesy of the artist_ Uncreated Light

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Aina Putnina_ born – 1962, graduated from the Art Academy of Latvia in 1992, and the Baltic International Academy in 2011 in Riga, Latvia. Since 1994 Putnina has participated in exhibitions, workshops, plain airs and other projects in Latvia, Lithuania, Belarus, and Georgia. Putnina has been employed at the Art School for children and adults teaching painting and computer graphics since 1993.

Putnina’s creative interest are painting and digital graphic media, and uses expressive abstract and landscape elements, as well as ornaments for the emotional narrative of composition while combines traditional painting with technology applications and is noted for her expressive use of color and tonal contrasts. Her works are characterized as emotionally expressive_telling stories with the use of colors, lines and shapes. Putnina notes that the simple geometric shapes and forms are messages from long time ago, and they are the witnesses of our creation and abstract thinking processes. Her work is an interpretation of nature_ forms around us and are an expression everyday life.

Courtesy of the artist_ River and Rain

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Renay Elle Morris_a career in brief.

(USA – BFA_Graphic Design / Photography) Renay E. Morris is an internationally recognized writer, award-winning graphic designer and photographer. Pursing her education, she received her degree from the prestigious Krannert School of Art & Design at the University of Illinois, with further studies at New York University and the Parsons School of Design. Throughout her career as a creative director, she incorporates the use of design and photography for the development of media programs for private and public organizations which have included; Universal Pictures, Sony Music/CBS Records, CBS Publications, and TDS Time Warner. With CorporateIDeasWorldwide, and renayellemorris.com, she maintains a platform for visual communications for a global clientele.

As a journalist and member of the US and overseas press community, Morris was the international news editor for Picturemagazine_a nominee for the coveted “Lucie” award. In addition to various publications, and as of 2016, she is the editor_ photographic & fine art development/content of the online artist resource/gallery_ arstler.com.

Currently, her primary direction is fine art photography presented in large-scale format. Morris participates in gallery exhibitions in the United States and abroad with representation. She resides in Manhattan, New York.

Courtesy of the artist_Lo Smarrito / The Lost
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Maria Kaleta_ as an artist, one always searches for meaning and morals that can be conveyed in their creations. For Maria, these lessons range from a whole host of different topics. She explores, for example, how, in an ever increasingly technological world, we can often lose sight of our identities. In turn, we observe how everything seems to revolve around the media and the trials of character that come with this, us now having to learn the difference between what can be useful and what can be dangerous, whether our sources of information can be trusted.

Having lived in London for well over a decade, Maria is also able to use this cultural hub as a rich source of inspiration for many of her works. Transposing the communities she observes there onto canvas or computer, Maria journeys through what it means to live in a multicultural society and all the highs and lows that come with it, living surrounded by vibrant peoples from a variety of origins.

With this in mind, she continues to investigate how persons can be drowned out by the sound of the city, what it means to lose your voice in the crowd and the effects this can have on your self.

With years of experience already behind her, the necessity for a togetherness between peoples seems a clear solution to some of such problems that Maria raises in her work. Art, however, cannot only be interpreted in one way or be deemed understood with but one solution. Instead, Maria's work allows for many morals and meanings to be open for the onlooker, with significance for many years to come.

Courtesy of the artist_Silence, 2017