Babelmed | 05/01/2006
“Being open to different art forms apart from one’s own is crucial to the further development of an artist,” says the young Maltese visual artist Anabel Cordina. In September 2005 she exhibited her work at the 12th Edition of the Biennal for Young Artists from Europe and the Mediterranean that was held in Naples. It was an important experience for her.
“Besides having the opportunity to exhibit my works alongside that of other young foreign artists, it was also an opportunity to see how people and other artists react to my work. I believe that it is crucial to see different Art forms, as through this, artists are constantly re-assessing their work. During my stay, I also made some contacts with artists from different disciplines. All this contributes to one’s artistic baggage.”
Anabel Cordina, born in 1980, graduated B.Ed (Hons.) in Art from the University of Malta in 2002 with a dissertation about “The Attitude of Teachers and Students towards Art” and now works as an Art Activity teacher in Maltese state schools. She collaborated with the Maltese cultural organization Inizjamed in March 2003 when she took part in the “F’kull Belt Hemm Kantuniera” project with an installation at the St. James Cavalier Centre for Creativity in Valletta.
In August 2004 she attended a History of Art course at the Freie Universität in Berlin and in August 2005 she attended a course on “Expanded Drawing” given by Michael Morgner at the Summer Academy of Fine Arts in Salzburg, Austria. Morgner is an established artist whose works are exhibited in important collections worldwide. Since October 2003 Anabel Cordina has been attending an Enrichment Course at the School of Art in Valletta, Malta, given by the Maltese artist Anton Grech who has influenced her artistic development in recent years.
We talk about the work she exhibited with Inizjamed at St. James Cavalier in 2003 and her impressive prints displayed in Naples. I suggest that the two works are worlds apart and ask whether she agrees. “The themes were different. One was “Solitude in the city,” whilst the biennial’s theme was “Passion.” In “F’Kull Belt Hemm Kantuniera” (There’s a corner in every city), I chose to make my intervention using installation, something which seemed more in line with the idea I wanted to convey. For the biennial I decided that working in 2d, using woodcut prints, was the best choice to express my idea. The unifying thread in both works is my interest in organic forms.”
“Through my intervention in “F’Kull Belt Hemm Kantuniera” I explored the feeling of deceit and isolation in the “city,” where things are not always as they seem, and more often than not one is consumed by the appearance of things, whilst not taking the time to inspect the object or situation more closely.
Another aspect which I explored is the choice whether or not to ignore one’s ability to feel or think, alienation… which could also be a means of protecting oneself. The pieces, executed in mixed media, were set up on wooden pedestals, whose form echoed the ones one associates with the idea of a city, thus uniform cubes and cuboids.”
And her work at the Biennial? “The work I exhibited in Naples consisted of a Triptych made out of three large format woodcut prints, 1m by 2.44m each, and printed on translucent paper. In my work, “The Inevitable,” organic forms interact and relate to one another. By shifting his or her glance the viewer discovers endless possibilities of relationships between the forms.”
I ask Anabel Cordina about the Naples Biennial as a whole. “I think that it was a good biennale as there was a variety of art forms under one roof. Throughout the ten days of the biennale there was a varied programme of Theatre, Music, Poetry and Fashion performances, and one could choose which activities to attend. It was a very interesting experience because I had the opportunity to meet young artists from around the world and become acquainted with different cultures.”
We talk about the the works of visual art displayed at the Biennial. “I liked the fact that there was quite a variety of works in the Visual Art section. These included photography, painting, sculpture, installation, web design and graphic design.
Some works which struck me in particular were those of Aslimay Altay, a Turkish artist whose work consisted of two Satin quilts, entitled ‘To dream under…’ The web design, photography and graphic art sections also included some very interesting projects. On the other hand, I did get the feeling that the sole intention of some of the works of art was to shock.”
All events and exhibitions were hosted at St. Elmo’s Castle, an impressive fortification that occupies Naples’ highest point. It is a fourteenth-century structure once used for incarcerating political prisoners and now lording it grandly over the streets of central Naples below. It hosts exhibitions, concerts and specialized fairs. I ask Anabel what she thought about this choice of venue, an issue that was raised time and again by the artists and the representatives of the various countries taking part in the Biennial. “It was a good choice of venue in that there was ample space for the exhibition.”
But what kind of interaction with the city did it allow? “Being on top of Vomero Hill, it was a bit cut off from the true nature of the city. Some Neapolitans were not aware that a biennal was being held in their city. Maybe if some performances were held in a piazza, this would have been nearer to the people.”
Thinking of renovations to similar building that have been done in Malta, I ask Anabel what she thought about the Castle itself and the way it has been renovated. Is it an ideal space to exhibit visual art? “In my opinion the Castello was intelligently renovated. Overall there was a neutral background and an ideal space to exhibit a work of art. The environment at St. Elmo is unpretentious; and display boards can be repainted, re-installed and dismantled without damaging the original structure of the place. Due to the neutral environment, the work of art, be it a painting, sculpture or installation can have an independent existence and not compete with other elements in the building.”
I can’t help thinking of St James Cavalier in Valletta, our prime cultural centre here in Malta. It was originally built towards the end of the 16th century by the Knights of St. John to provide a raised gun-platform to counteract land attacks on the new capital city of Valletta. When it was turned into a Centre for Creativity by the Maltese architect Richard England many artists felt that the designer had allowed himself far too many liberties with the building itself, that he had intervened far too much, and they’re probably right. Fortunately, since its opening in September 2000, the Centre (http://www.sjcav.org/) has established itself as a vibrant point of reference for cultural events and has provided opportunities for creativity in all its aspects. But back to southern Italy.
Naples is a vibrant city. “Perhaps the feeling that you’re somewhere unique,” says my Rough Guide to Italy, “makes it possible to endure the noise and constant harassment.” Perhaps it’s the feeling that you’ve travelled from an ordinary place of mainland Europe “to somewhere akin to an Arab bazaar.” Anabel describes Naples as “vibrant, chaotic and very colourful. It is a city of extremes. Streets are always buzzing with people and traffic, piazzas become a meeting place, and in the old centre of the city, the street becomes an extension of the house. The people are very warm and communicative.”
We talk about other projects and initiatives in the field of visual art in Malta that Anabel Cordina has found particularly interesting. “I like it when artists come together,” she says, “and make use of abandoned or historical buildings to make an artistic intervention. An example of this was last year’s “Blitz” exhibition, which was held in the war shelter at Couvre Port, in the maritime city of Birgu, a project run by the artistic group START.
And what about her plans for the future? “I’d like to further my artistic development both locally and abroad. It would also be interesting to work on a project in collaboration with artists from different fields of art.”