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Neville Ferry - Myth, Magic and Mystery   Print  E-mail 
Submitted by Artissa Administrator  
Page 2 of 2

Shrine 2Markerstone 3Neville Ferry was born in Msida but brought up in St. Ursola Street, Valletta near St. Mary of Jesus church. He remembers very little of his childhood but enough to analyse his first inklings. He often loitered in front of particular shops on his way to Baviere elementary school. He remembers with nostalgia a small toyshop packed with odds and ends – from the smallest penknife to the largest toy – situated in the neighbourhood. Other favourite haunts were the gilder of St. Christopher Street, a souvenir craft-shop of Maltese Dghajsas, a restoration lab for antique furniture in Old Bakery Street and an antique shop situated in a basement in Archbishop Street popular for the sale of old books, coins, stamps, military badges and other bric-a-brac. One can just imagine Neville whetting his inquisitive nature browsing in the odd dark corners of this treasure house when his fascination for ‘found objects’ is so acute. These shops mark in stages the route he took to school and back home. But the workshops of the gilder and furniture restorer must have been Neville’s first craving after craftsmanship.

Niche 1Yet perhaps Neville’s deepest influence on his subconscious was religious rites and rituals, an integral part of his childhood service as an altar boy at St. Mary of Jesus church, Valletta. Neville’s love for primitive art and ritual is a filtering of his imagination fired by his awe for sacred paraphernalia and ceremony.

His art is perhaps a conscious attempt at capturing the rough ‘barbarian’ peasant-soldier trait that influenced Christian Roman art in the first centuries of the church triumphant up to Romanesque (tenth century) which was eventually passed on to us after centuries of adaptation, grafting and transformation by both popular and discerning taste. This layer upon layer of accretions and stratification of styles and tastes pose a challenge for Neville to scrape through and arrive at the very bone, the essentials. The abstract element in his art is complimentary to his love for the primitive, the elemental, the roughness and sharpness of spontaneous expression.

Shrine 3Goddesses, idols, torsos, phallic stones, menhirs, relics, shrines, niches, trophies, votive columns and gifts (titles of works) convey a sense of pantheism, a belief in gods and goddesses, a pagan and heathen stance. Yet Neville’s works are imbued with spirituality. His reference to rite ritual and ceremonial is enshrined in propitiation, in invocation, in sympathetic magic, in animism. His works are amulets and talismans. They are so overpowering. No wonder the new power wielded by the church in the Middle Ages was based less on organisation than on introducing religious practices that appealed to the humble (the cult of relics) and to the powerful (donations, pilgrimages and crusades). Pagan ritual, relics, amulets, gifts and ceremonial so effective and powerful are as old as the hills.

His torsos and goddesses are poems to the fertility cult, to sacred maternity, to matriarchy, to life’s regenerative cycle and lustful vigour, to sexual symbolism, to hedonism, to nature’s infinite potential for regeneration, for resurrection and victory over death.

Shrine 4Between 1989 and 1991 Neville Ferry attended Beford College of Higher Education where he was awarded a Diploma in Professional Studies in Education – Design Technology. The artist also became a founder member and later trustee of Milton Keynes Craft Guild (1987-99). Neville also belongs to CORE, a group consisting of ten members that regularly present their work in exhibitions like that held at the Chantry Chapel (National Trust) in Buckingham U.K. Between 1982-85 Neville and his wife Rosemary established and ran ‘Spiral Pottery Ltd’, a local business venture.

At present Neville Ferry teaches art at Bedford School, a public institution where he has had continuous encouragement and vigorous support throughout the last eighteen years (1987-2005) of his career. The school has acquired several works, two of which stand in the Queen’s Garden for the students to enjoy. Two other works by the artist stand in the gardens of the Peace Laboratory at Hal Far and in the former School for Arts and Crafts at Targa Gap, Mosta, both in Malta. The artist is donating ‘Votive Column’, a two metre ceramic sculpture to Santa Lucia Local Council, a gesture towards realising the dream of a sculpture garden.

Gifts to the GodsTorso 4Neville’s work is a fusion of popular and intellectual art, an amalgam of provincial and sophisticated ironic wit and a critical comment on life around us. His satire at times is so fine, delicate and polished in contrast to the physical roughness of the objects themselves that it is hardly discernible to the novice or casual observer. His tongue-in-cheek is irreverent, caustic and quite challenging.

His works convey the feeling of spring after the thaw, like dawn that swallows night, like light that destroys the shadows of darkness that fills space and time with delight. Neville is an existentialist. He can merge heaven and earth, religion and spirituality, heathen and Christian belief, classical and romantic culture, myth and reality, superstition and belief, liberty and bonding. Myth, magic and mystery are his realm.

Neville Ferry married Rosemary nee Daly in 1970 and they have a son Bernard and a daughter Daniela.

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