John Paul Azzopardi, best known for his bone sculpture, is presenting his first works in pencil and acrylic on paper in a solo show opening today at Lily Agius Gallery in Sliema. He tells Times of Malta about his new works.


You usually work on sculptural constructs. Why did you decide to create works on paper?

I’ve been creating bone sculptures for the past 10 years. With those fossilised structures, I’ve been exploring the interrelationship that oscillates back and forth from the simple and the complex, to the living and the dead connecting space and form, thus creating existential structures of interwoven silence. The death embedded in its form is actually life, presence and hence abstracted silence. 

I’ve been trying to create a meditative form which could serve as an object of beauty where one can let go of their critical faculties and allow their operations of observation to sink into silent aesthetics. Something that doesn’t speak at all, something that encourages silence. 

When we immerse ourselves into perceiving beauty, it seems that the distance between the perceiver and the object being perceived diminishes, hence providing us with the further opportunity of doing away with the lethal subject/object diabolical duality seemingly inbuilt into our very thinking processes, our language games and the acquisitive activity they generate.

Shadow TimeShadow Time

I’ve been experimenting and exploring for the past several years, trying to understand how one can experience a stronger state of immersive experience. I’ve been asking myself and testing what type of states and conditions generate or allow the observer to gently engage into an experiential mode of feeling closer to the state of the subject at hand. I’m really interested in those states where I feel a slight detachment from my daily critical self. Something which is similar in ways to when staring at the sea and losing oneself in the act of perception or also intense states where shock (exaggeration) itself seemingly slows down time.

What do the current works represent?

These current works are somehow a continuation into the research and exploration into the subject of what constitutes the very fabrics of our true self and the operations of both perception, observation and immersion. With these works I’m trying to understand the basic operations which can lead us to these states of pure awareness, i.e. the state which does not necessarily need to engage the critical basis of reflection; states of momentary ego-death. I decided to experiment on paper to understand certain principles that can then help me understand my research better and to understand my next step of exploration and creation. Everything I do, in a way, is a form of experimentation, some work, some don’t. But everything eventually leads to the next project, finding stronger and functional aesthetics. 

I wish the observer to engage with each work in their own way

What is the exhibition’s theme?

The title Silver River refers to the exploration into the fabrics of the psyche and its categories of consciousness, internal and external awareness of phenomena that momentarily alters our states of time and space. Meditations, intoxication, beauty, shock, boredom, sleep, to name a few, provide us with the opportunity to experience different states of time and space, so I’m exploring those themes. 

The ‘river’ in the title refers to a person’s stream of life, stream of consciousness, towards the ocean/sea where everything merges, dissolves. Each person is a river, the sea is where everything merges into each other, meaning loss of individualisation. ‘Silver’ refers to the reflection of the moon on the river. The moon has a feminine quality, a more sensitive quality in alchemical terms. In darkness everything seems to merge into each other as opposed to daylight where due to the sun, everything seems separated from each other, hence the idea of being more individualistic. 

The questions I’ve set to explore include: what can lead a person’s state of consciousness to merge with their object of observation? What are the qualities that expose the operations of consciousness and what operations and modes of being allow a person to learn how to merge oneself with the world and experience a minor loss of detached individuality?

Can you describe any of the artworks on display?

I don’t wish to go into too much detail about each and every work. I wish the observer to engage with each work in their own way. I think that when you inform too much the artwork is seen as a mere body of information, which is good but at the same time it doesn’t allow the observer to explore it in their own terms. 

Having said that, I will explain one work just as an indicator to the general theme. The image where the horse is falling from the sky represents the state of shock and awe. In rites of passage, terror, a car crash, hallucinogenic experiences − in that moment time seems to slow down and awareness expands. 

Silver River opens tonight at 7.30pm at Lily Agius Gallery, 54, Cathedral Street, Sliema. It will be open every day (except Sunday) from 10am to 6pm until November 16. For more information, visit or or call +356 9929 2488. 

Centripetal Deluge (The Sky is Falling)Centripetal Deluge (The Sky is Falling)

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