The paintings and installation created exclusively for Identity of an Island : Alternative Perspectives are an offshoot of my ongoing investigation related to indoor gardening and the individual. The research is rooted in the global plant boom that took place since Covid 19 pandemic shook lifestyles from the foundations. With everyone encouraged, or obliged, to stay contained within the household, gardening offered reflection, escape and sprouts for new connections. Uploaded images featuring plants, gardens and harvests from amateurs opened new channels of conversation on social media on the topic, both in groups set up for individuals sharing the interest, as well as private two-way conversations.
The body of works presented for Identity of an Island: Alternative Perspectives goes hand in hand with my current analysis of local environments, branching on to the relationship between people and plants within the Mediterranean region. The expressive, tranquil yet melancholic paintings aim to counter interact the ongoing, construction boom experienced throughout the Maltese islands, creating a dissonance with the endemic local urban and rural texture. This overdevelopment is creating a shift in opinions with the general public, with some advocating for progress while others take a more conservative, respectful, sometimes hardcore approach to conservation and preservation of rural areas. Following such an argument, one is also to question whether gardening can be regarded as an act of small scale, individual resistance in face of the helplessness one may feel when facing bigger entities. The rapid shifts that happened on the islands within generations has created an understandable element of nostalgia among younger generations, especially those who experienced a much more tranquil, authentic environment. The works address the gaps between generations, delving into the phenomena of Gozo as a retreat space, a place where one time stood still. A defined space where one regenerates and takes a break from the daily grind. As much as during the peaks of the pandemic one opted for the refuge and sanctuary of the home, the paintings reflect Gozo’s silence, natural landscape and easy reconnection with the recent past. The 90 x 90cms paintings show a group of plants occupying a quarter of the canvas, framed by toned down, synchronized pop colours. The calm, solemn paintings are in dialogue with an installation made from recycled material, plants, wood and CCTV cameras. The installation echoes the insularity of the island, questioning whether the confinement of a sister island guards identity, else slows progression.
The exhibition features oil paintings based around the theme of plants – a subject which has currently become a trademark and a synonym of Ryan Falzon’s oeuvre. Falzon goes a step further by including figures in his greenery inundated interiors. This comes as no surprise. Falzon amalgamates the concept from his Botanica series with another series titled Selfies, which has not yet been exhibited.
The Covid-19 pandemic proved to be quite a comfort zone for Falzon, who describes himself as a reserved individual. The halt in the rush of the everyday life and the lack of social pressure brought about by social restrictions, gave him opportunity to breathe and reflect, without experiencing the fear of missing out. Just like many others confined inside domestic spaces during several periods in the past two years, Falzon emphasizes that plants were of a great comfort during the pandemic. Just like painting, indoor gardening is a solitary activity which encourages reflection, routine and growth. An avid gardener himself, Falzon finds comfort in these two parallels activities. The evolution of indoor gardening is considered as a significant branch in social history studies.
From the hanging gardens of Babylon to the craze for newly discovered specimens imported from the New World during the Victorian era to the 2020’s plant boom, plants offered grounding, nutrition, and comfort.
This pandemic showed us how much the human being craves companionship, and plants are a perfect non-demanding companion. The lack of commitment required by plants created this wordplay on the title Friends with Plants.
Everyone should keep plants. Plants teaches you life and death. Plants teaches you that life ain't fairand that what is neglected thrives, while what is passionately taken care of dies. Plants bring the joyof harvesting, the frustration with invasive pests, the watering routine.
The act of growing and nurturing plants was deemed archaic and passe before Covid-19 initial lockdown, as were other activities such as baking bread, knitting and amateur painting.Humans became plants in the pandemic. Confined to their space, comforted by technology, asignificant number of individuals flourished alone, while others dwindled when the human contactwas rendered minimal.All in isolation.Just like a lonely plant on a windowsill.Just like forgotten herbs in a sunny balcony while the family was on holiday.Just like the garden whose elderly owner was in hospital due to Covid 19.Now, close to a year since the initial news about the new virus, many managed to adapt to the newrealities. Most are expecting a rollback, others riding the wave by exploiting takeaway deliverypeople while others are still terrified and still sanitize every single preserve delivered on theirdoorstep from the minimarket round the corner.
In August most plants sleep, become dormant. May we believe that when they start blooming again,the pandemic would be under control and on its way out.People who keep plants are grounded in time. People who keep plants shake off the depressingdarkness out of their window at 6pm knowing that the plants they hurried home to water will bloomand reward in March.Plants will still bloom if the pandemic remains and deaths are sky high.Plants will still continue the cycle of life.In isolation.
Friends with weed are better than friends in high places.But some prefer friends who grow chilis and invite them over for harissa over plant talk. Or simpledates that started online over comments or DM’s complimenting pictures of plants posted online.Now we just hope that once the pandemic is over, Recycle Malta group on Facebook won’t beflooded with posts offering pots of all shapes and sizes, and the enrichment caused by tranquility ofsolitude would flow into post-pandemic normality.
This series of oil paintings picks on the hobby of gardening, which along other domestic pastimes such as sewing and baking, was rediscovered by a Generation Z and Millenials during the March - May 2020 Covid-19 lockdown.
With everyone encouraged, or obliged, to stay contained within the household, gardening offered reflection and escape. Shared images and posts showing plants, gardens and harvest opened new channels of conversation on social media on the topic, both in groups set up for individual sharing the interest, as well as private two way conversations.
WE LOST THE WAR celebrates downfalls as much as victories, through layers of deceptive bright paint and pop iconography. WE LOST THE WAR deals with the idea of loss on two main levels. These are the violation and exploitation of the notion of a national identity, along with personal losses such as lost love and broken relationships. The theme is tackled from a subjective point of view throughout the whole project, presenting a view point which might disarray.
Isolation,technology and households in Western Society are the main themes explored in this project, with the intended final works clearly demonstrating the connection between individuals and their behavior within the confined environment of the home. Quirky habits, sexual fantasies and plain boredom are to be explored in the context of isolation found within the framework of a household in Western societies.
"Ex Voto" is a project that revolves around Christian iconography, the conditions of living on an island and the relation to the sea. Maltese seascapes are depicted in contrast with urban Berlin landscapes to create platforms on which solemnly silent figures exist.
The works explore the ambiguous relation between the sea and the individuals who feel threatened by the physical isolation that it creates, but also feel that the sea gives them an identity, at par with their Catholic upbringing. This body of works bears testimony to contemporary salvation,liberation,and an introspective journey which often leads to solitude.
One can also observe an investigation of activities, mostly nocturnal,that only a built habitat can support due to the nature of its infrastructure. The mechanical structures and high rise buildings silently survey everyday patterns of city inhabitants: over speeding,affairs, anonymous persons driving home after work. Disappointment,repressed sexuality and disillusion are present, creating a heavy,apocalyptic veil in the works.
Fusing childhood memories, pop imagery and typical suburban environment, these works portray the suburban youth. There is an emphasis on the behavior of such youth, as they portray themselves the underdog from the movies, the oppressed but the cool ones.