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James Vella Clark - 20 Questions Interview 2007   Print  E-mail 
Submitted by Artissa Administrator  
Page 2 of 2

meltemi(detail1)11. Since our last interview, have you seen any changes in the local art market in general?

I have noticed that spending power has increased and people are appreciating much more the joy of investing in works of art – things that remain forever and that form part of the respective artist’s experience. However, certain segments of the market still need to be more educated into knowing how and when to buy art but ultimately, art remains universally subjective and strictly related to the individual’s preferences according to his power to spend at that point in time.

12. You say that the local artistic community is lazy and does not want to think about the deepness of art. What do you think it would take for this to change – for our country to really host a mature artistic community?

When I mentioned the term lazy, I was not referring to the artistic community as in the artists. I was more referring to that part of the public that goes to exhibitions and expects to relate to works without dedicating enough time and thought to what might have spurred the artist to express himself in that way. Or what messages is the artist trying to convey through his work. This happens mostly when it comes to what people term as ‘abstract art’. They see a work, they don’t connect to it and therefore they decide they don’t understand it. They are afraid to let loose and try and connect with the work. They don’t see themselves getting engaged by a work.

I think this can change if we try to instil a love for art in children – to help them start taking an active role in looking at art with a different eye other than looking at art as a purely decorative means. They have to be encouraged to voice their emotions when they look at art and not to be afraid to interpret what in their opinion might be the artist’s message. We all did this when we studied prose and poetry at school. Why not take children to art exhibitions and get them to meet with the artists themselves…this could be a very good and promising start.

13. What about the infrastructure available to emerging artists – have the resources improved since a few years ago?

Emerging artists, compared to a few years ago, have more opportunity to exhibit in collective exhibitions and alongside more established artists. The number of exhibiting spaces is slowly starting to increase and there is a general acknowledged feeling that appreciation towards art is always improving. Still there is the need for more proper venues for exhibiting. The Fine Arts is a very prestigious venue however it is quite run down and needs some serious renovation. There’s still a long way to go in order to have proper exhibiting halls that are central, that enjoy a lot of exposure and most importantly, that inspire true quality and professionalism.

14. When you look back at your artwork throughout the past years, what are the thoughts that cross your mind?

I think of how I will be looking at my current work in years to come! Of course I see a whole journey that has evolved so much and I’m sure will keep evolving. One significant development was my exploration of the cubist elements. Unfortunately, this was an example of how the local audience never looked beyond this approach and sadly enough, could only stop at comparing this style to what was immediately familiar to them.

I also notice a gradual move towards a freer approach and it is here that my art took a significant leap forward, especially when I started to explore the use of black and white next to each other. This element can be traced back as early as 2004 and has been evolving throughout so much so that it is a core concept in my current work.

04Hal-Millieri15. Art galleries seem to be opening in many places around Malta. How do you view the role of professional art galleries within the local art market in general?

I have had a brief experience in managing an art gallery when last year I was operating SPACE – a project with another artist, Caroline Navarro. Although the gallery was quite successful in that it generated some good business for us, I noticed that people in general are still afraid of walking into an art gallery because somehow they would feel pressured that they have to buy.

I think the local market is very small and particular for a private gallery to operate successfully, more so when one knows how easy it is to contact the artist directly to visit his studio and acquire a piece directly from him. But then, professional galleries also offer artists another source of exposure to a certain segment of clientele that no matter how small it would be, is still willing to purchase art from a gallery rather than from the artist. It simply boils down to a matter of preference.

16. Most foreign art galleries are specialists in their fields, are crucial for the promotion of artists, and usually reap great successes. From experience, do you think there are any noticeable differences between local art galleries and foreign ones? Can these gaps, if any, ever be bridged, or is Malta too different from other countries to achieve this?

Abroad, where artists are much more competitive and where art is just another form of business, professional galleries operate as a business venture where they market themselves as art consultants to clients, most of them corporate, who prefer to trust a galleries’ knowledge of the art market before investing big thousands in art purchases. The market abroad is also much bigger and the stakes much higher so therefore, any serious artist would prefer leaving the promotion of his work in the hands of expert people who have the know-how, the resources and the experience ready at hand.

Malta however is too small and the art market is even smaller for any private specialist galleries to be successful. The artists are easily approachable when the client knows what he or she wants and therefore, people are more willing to buy directly from the artist. In my opinion, professional galleries in Malta can only be successful if they manage to strike the exact balance between being commercially viable, being realistic and sensitive to the market and respecting the artist’s demands and expectations.

17. You have managed to fulfil the dream you had three years ago – exhibiting your work abroad. What is the next achievement you would like to fulfil within the next three years?

It’s hard to really pin point what I would want my next achievement to be. Right now I am much more concerned on the work I am preparing for my forthcoming exhibition at St James Cavalier. This is a very important project for me because expectations are rather high since my last solo exhibition was held almost three years ago, way back in early 2005.

2006GreenAmbiguityI am banking a lot on this exhibition and I am considering this project as a very crucial one – a sort of ‘make it or break it’ for me, for a number of reasons, but mainly because of the important changes in my style not only visually but also conceptually.

The outcome of this exhibition will very much shape my future artistic activity so I’d rather take it step by step. But yes, I would like to have a new opportunity to exhibit abroad and even strike a formal representation agreement with a foreign gallery that can promote my work abroad.

18. You have an upcoming exhibition planned for November at St. James Cavalier. You mention that the works present will be different from what we are used to seeing – more subdued colours which also represent evolution through failure. Can you elaborate on this concept? Do you consider failure to be an essential step towards improving oneself?

Our life is full of failures. We fail almost everyday. It’s just a matter of how we look at these failures. Sometimes they overwhelm us and we remain under them and sometimes we choose to stand up again, learn from them and move on. The latter is far more difficult of course.

This exhibition will be the product of two years’ work where I have been exploring a different aspect in my art especially the use of more subdued colours mainly the exploration of the use of blacks and whites. Whether this will be an evolution through failure is still to be seen since I am still exploring this concept. In theory, recognising failure is easy but learning from it is even harder. That’s why when we do learn from our failures we become better persons.

As I already said before, this exhibition will be very much about my own human experience and the main concept behind it will be that I am after all just a human being with my successes and my failures, with my experiences and with what I share and with what I choose not to share.

It will be an exhibition that will be exploring the dualities in our life – our relationship first and foremost with ourselves and then with others, the extremes that lie within us, the hopes and fears, the constant struggles within ourselves that are shaped by our beliefs, an exhibition of extremes. Building up this concept tangibly through my paintings is proving to be very challenging but I think that all in all it’s going to be a very interesting project.

19. How much importance do you give to promotional effort when setting up an exhibition?

Abstract in Red Orange and WhiteMany artists oversee this detail and don’t give it the importance it merits. I have always believed in promoting one’s exhibition not because it puts you in the public eye but because of the importance of artists reaching out to their public. I have always been very open with the public regarding my art and I use promotion to communicate the messages behind my exhibition. I seek to make people connect with my art because if they don’t connect with my art, then I’m just wasting my time. An exhibition is not just a tour de force or a formality in order to keep people adjourned with what you might be doing. It is the wanting to share a set of lived personal experiences in a tangible manner. So art needs an audience.

20. Our last interview concluded with a quote you gave us from artist Franz Kline – “You paint the way you have to in order to give. That's life itself, and someone will look and say it is the product of knowing, but it has nothing to do with knowing, it has to do with giving”. Three years on, do you still relate to this quote? Do you feel you have a deeper understanding of what this artist wanted to express?

Three years ago I had just discovered Franz Kline’s work and this phrase had really struck me. Today I realise how these past months I’ve been living this quote all throughout.

By being open about my art, by relating my life through my expression and by letting people know who I am, I can safely say that I do relate to this quote, today more than ever. When the art is honest, when it is coming from within, when the artist ‘bleeds his emotions onto the canvas in front of him’ to bare his emotional and spiritual experience - yes I call that giving.

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