FabricATE by Gabriel Buttigieg at Spazju Kreattiv is inspired by the narratives of Greco-Roman myths and the dark side of human nature depicted within them.

Presented with Spazju Kreattiv’s support to coincide with the biennale, and curated by Lisa Gwen, this is Buttigieg’s first multimedia show, created during an intense period of focused work over the last few months, a period he found exciting both conceptually and aesthetically.

“I’ve always had a fascination with mythology, and the totality of human nature that myths lay bare,” says Buttigieg, tracing this interest back to a childhood exposed to the classics from Sophocles to Kafka by his father, an author, and his professional roots in philosophy, literature and existentialism in particular.

Artist Gabriel Buttigieg. Photo: Kurt ParisArtist Gabriel Buttigieg. Photo: Kurt Paris

“The narratives are dark yet exhilarating: they are often metaphors for moral, erotic and spiritual questions humans have asked since the dawn of time. We might also ask whether myths distort the truth about humanity or distil the dark depths of an individual’s instinctive nature, people within society and families at their worst. 

“I believe art should show all of humanity and reflect upon our behaviours and taboos and the underlying reasons for them. As a psychologist graduate with a Masters in Fine Arts focusing on the feminine, I take rather a deterministic position in psychoanalysis. Honour and hubris, possession and power, lust and jealousy, cruelty and revenge, are all powerful emotions which are still at the root of who we are today.”

<em>Arachne (after Gustave Dor&eacute;)</em>Arachne (after Gustave Doré)

In his dramatic large-scale pieces, Buttigieg reworks myths from Oedipus to Ovid, drawing on both the traditional stories themselves and classical depictions of the myths such as The Rape of Hippodamia by Rubens.  Making them his own, he reimagines and subverts each with thick bold lines, precisely placed “with deadly intent” on painted neutral and floral fabrics kindly provided by Camilleri Paris Mode.

“With Lisa’s guidance, I chose to paint on these gorgeous fabrics to hint at the romanticism and luxury associated with ancient Greeks and Romans, giving a flavour of the opulence of the ancient cities of Athens and Pompeii,” explains Buttigieg. It’s a masterful pairing as the simplicity of fabric and its association with charm and beauty provides an interesting contrast with the twisted tales and softens the stark subject matter of the works.

As Buttigieg has fabricated his new stories from the old, these absorbing works have taken on a dream-like quality.

<em>Circe (after Robert Auer)</em>Circe (after Robert Auer)

From their gentle woven backdrops, ethereal peaches and cream figures emerge slowly as if veiled by the past; and as these abstracted protagonists writhe and struggle with life, sumptuous pinks golds and oranges remind us that these powerful gods and goddesses ruled from a world of splendour. Again, it’s a fascinating mix.

The narratives are dark yet exhilarating: they are often metaphors for moral, erotic and spiritual questions humans have asked since the dawn of time

With each of these paintings, Buttigieg interprets a different tale, each leading on to another in an approximate chronology so that the whole is a journey through the Greco-Roman heavens. The characters include Dionysus, the god of wine and debauchery, and Cronus, the god of time, who – afraid that his children were going to overthrow him – is shown devouring his son.


“Female figures include Arachne, spider-like, transformed into her beastly shape by Hera, who was jealous of Arachne’s talents as a seamstress, and the child-killers Medea and Lamia.

“In Greek mythology, Lamia devoured children because she wasn’t ready to bear her own which raises the issue, still relevant today, of whether women should be made to carry a child just because they physically can. It continues to be a universal truth, as relevant today as in Greco-Roman times, that women are often still victims today,” Buttigieg sadly continues.


There are also two pieces of sculpture in the show. This is the first time that Buttigieg has exhibited such work, and these ‘zoom-in’ on two of the protagonists in the paintings showing sections of their bodies.

Leda’s reclining torso is clearly heavy with child, the result of her forced union with Zeus in the form of a swan, while the legs of Ixion were condemned by Zeus to an eternity of suffering on a spinning wheel of fire, a punishment for trying to seduce his wife.

Presented on cold, hard marble, these are larger than life, reminding us of the superior size and strength of these imposing immortals in both their stories and their legacies.

<em>The Punishment of Ixion (after De Pujol)</em>The Punishment of Ixion (after De Pujol)

With immersive intent, the exhibition is set to cyclical contemporary instrumental music curated by Andrea Mugliett. Compiled specifically for FabricATE, the pieces range from eerie and haunting to upbeat: the variety of emotions conveyed adds a life and dynamism to the show, immersing the viewer in a heightened emotional journey through Greco-Roman mythology.

In addition, the show includes an unexpected video projection, a short sequence from the costume drama Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019). “For me, it really resonated with the emotions in the paintings,” smiles Buttigieg.  “It reminds us of the eternal relevance and depth of human emotion, of the choices we make, and the moments at which we perhaps should pause.”

FabricATE is showing at Spazju Kreattiv until June 23.


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