Ennead, translated from Greek as ‘nine’, brings together the work of nine artists sitting for their Masters of Fine Arts in Digital Arts, organised by the Department of Digital Arts at the University of Malta. Times of Malta walks through the exhibits that are multidisciplinary and conceptual in nature, ranging from animation to abstract paintings, photography to telemedicine, audiovisual installations to illustration.

Mickayla Bugeja’s set of illustrations, entitled The Effects of Verbal and Nonverbal Elements Using Online Platforms, investigates the power of such platforms and the way they can affect a person via nonverbal communication as in facial expressions, gestures and mannerisms. COVID-19 precipitated an increase in virtual communication which, however, decreased normal human social interaction, thus changing the parameters of emotions and the physical demonstration of them. Bugeja’s research relates to the in-betweenness, the interrelation bet­ween what is said and what is unsaid.  

Emma Cini, who is a graphic designer, also uses illustrations as a medium in her True Colours, A Visual Representation of Fear and Hope Being Experienced During the COVID- 19 Phase. The pandemic is also the backdrop for the artwork and analyses a particular duality that has emerged, that of fear and hope originating from news sources and hearsay. It has been a see-saw of contrasting emotions, at times dampening our hope and at other times filling us with expectations. The artist creates an artistic representation of the pandemic reality in our country.

Peter Magro’s background in illustration and graphic novels came in handy to execute his Ode to a Stone, An Animated Work Inspired by Environmental Change and Temporality, a short, hand-drawn animation of a location with a fictional interpretation. Man often intervenes on his environment, most of the times with detriment to his own habitat. Nature is also an agent of change, sometimes drastic and at other times gradual. Magro chose a location on Manoel Island as the ever-transforming environment to be documented.

C H A O S | Я Ǝ ꓷ Я O, A Metaphorical Representation of the Mind is Lara Manara’s introspective and autobiographical video installation that explores personal duali­ties of chaos and order, the title implying their reflective qualities as yin/yang functions of each other. She places her embodied self at the centre, experiencing contrasting streams of consciousness in a state of flux. Drawing on philosophy, namely on metaphysics and phenomenology, she attempts to create metaphorical and painterly representations of her inner world; an ambiguous self-portrait and self-narrative which is an honest, temporal experience of being-in-a-mind as a reflection on being-in-the-world.

All Ennead artists believe that art can and should serve as a catalyst for dialogue, whether relating to the philosophical, cultural, social, political or personal

Not Always Everywhere but Always Somewhere is the title of Nicole Pace’s light installation which explores darkness and light ‘unphysicalities’ that physi­cally condition us. An artist harbouring a multi-disciplinary approach originating from her background in fine arts, printmaking and experimental animation, she explores dualities such as the absent and the present, the physical and unphysical, something and nothing. The interaction of the viewer is essential as the installation is an immersive one, using light and dark which are conditioned by the viewer’s absence and presence.

A photographic portrait using multiple cameras is the theme of Bernard Polidano’s Confronting the Gaze, An Investigation How a Single Defining Picture of Reality can be Captured using Multiple Cameras. His background in photography was essential in this experiment that enquires how much a photographic image can capture the character and identity of the sitter in all aspects. Polidano focuses on the search for the inner self of the sitter. In a sense, a portrait is viewed as a piece of data fragmented in time that can be gathered, deconstructed, and optimised to generate a result that effectively examines a subject’s character.

Clayton Saliba is positive that each of us have talents and abilities that could contribute to gradually improve the world around us; an online app to improve post-treatment health education in diabetic children is a step in that direction. Digitus, Telemedicine and Digital Art is Saliba’s project that develops an app focusing on digital illustration, thus do­ing away with the necessity of printed brochures to deliver instructions and information to a young audience, or at least being an accessory to printed material.

In [Psyche Uninterrupted], The Void of Mental Activity as an Exploration for New Audio-visual Instruments, Daphne Sammut uses technology, sound and audio-visual synthesis to investigate the pro­perty of an individual as an electronic-music compositional tool. She believes that anyone has to capability to compose electronic music as the ‘performer’ does not need to be conversant with academic musical theory and composition. Musical expression can be achieved via a connection that the brain makes with the machine. Thus, the individual is hybridised as a “technological self”.  Sammut exploits sound to generate altered states of consciousness.

Nicole Zammit comes from a background in painting and psychology. Her work, Exploring Mindfulness, Art as Meditative Practice, is a multi-media installation, using both digital and organic elements, that bridges the notions of meditation, mindfulness and art therapy. The viewers are invited to focus on their inner world and engage with the here and now. She makes use of fluorescent acrylic pouring as an extension of mindfulness and meditative practice. Zammit devised her approach through auto-ethnographic research which contributed to a better understanding of the self.

All Ennead artists believe that art can and should serve as a catalyst for dialogue, whether relating to the philosophi­cal, cultural, social, political or personal.

Ennead MFA, hosted by Spazju Kreattiv, St James Cavalier, Valletta, runs until June 27. Please consult the Spazju Kreattiv Facebook page for opening times. COVID-19 restrictions apply.

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