Xaxa Calleja’s latest collection explores how we are all the same, at least from the inside. She tells Veronica Stivala how she uses anatomy to reflect on inner life.

How does a thought grow? Where does it originate from? How do colours influence us? These were the thoughts that inspired the talented Xaxa Calleja to create her latest series of introspective art works.

The collection is entitled Interiority Disclosed, interiority being the quality of being interior or inward, or, interestingly, inner character or subjectivity.

And, it is through her exploration and depiction of anatomy that Xaxa reflects on inner life, or the substance within us, which, admit­ted­ly, is often difficult to describe.

Through her works, Xaxa aims to explore the concept of how we are all the same, at least from the inside. We all have the same inward workings even though outwardly we may look different.

Any viewer of Xaxa’s detailed creations will quickly pick up on the central theme of this collection: the human body.

In one painting, swirls of dark ink hues curve around the form of a human head, in another, the inky lines curl around a foetal form and, in yet another, the black inky swirls merge with a skin-coloured palate to form the impression of a pregnant woman.

“I want audiences to reflect on how we form part of a greater whole, and originate and form part of the universe and how this cycle continues to evolve without our action, and nature just takes its course,” Xaxa says of her works.

The process behind each painting was arduous as all had many prototypes created before the artist reached the final product. For every work she selects to exhibit, numerous works have been produced to explore different areas of the body in detail.

“I go through this process because I do not find it is enough just to depict or study something once and let it go. When I look at the area again I discover something new which I may have missed before,” the meticulous artist notes.

I want audiences to reflect on how we form part of a greater whole

As part of her almost year-long research, she looked at images of different body parts. She studied and sourced inspiration from 19th century anatomy plates and let the anatomy inspire her in the form of what the work would take.

In the process, she started to realise that there were particular areas that intrigued her, such as the head.

“It started to become clear that my interest was not just depicting areas of the body which are anatomically correct but it was more about how these forms started to influence my work,” she says.

While Xaxa was obviously familiar with anatomy before embarking on this project, she admits that the process of looking at different images inspired her in the way she uses the medium:

“Each work is different; some works are a direct inspiration of an image that I have seen, others are inspired by various things. Thematically I feel this project has engaged me to reflect more upon our body structure and also to reflect upon questions about our existence.”

Xaxa speaks about other ways in which the project has inspired her, most notably about how it has helped her to look with new light at different times of our existence, our beginning, the period of maturity, when we are at our prime and then when our body starts to fade until all that is left are our bones.

“We exist in this form and obviously it is something which we cannot escape from; I am intrigued by this process,” she muses. “We are part of this circle of existence not by our own choice, we find ourselves in this situation, I think that it is a feeling that we can all relate to at some level.”

This project seeks to explore the inner life within us both on a physiological and psychological plane.

For her next project, Xaxa will probably be looking at psychological patterns. She is particularly interested in Jung’s archetypes and mandalas.

Interiority Disclosed is curated by Roderick Camilleri and supported by the Malta Arts Fund. The exhibition runs at St James Cavalier, Valletta until January 4.

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