PAWLU MIZZI considers his current exhibition thirty three as a milestone in his artistic expression. He sits with Joseph Agius to discuss and unpack the concepts that underline his oeuvre.
JA: Your last solo exhibition Wiċċ Imb Wiċċ in April 2021 focused on just one of the techniques that you use, that of digital multiple exposures. This exhibition, thirty three, is more of a retrospective that investigates various aspects of your oeuvre across the last 12 years. Does this mean that you are at a crossroads in your artistic expression and that you need to explore new paths?
PM: Wiċċ Imb Wiċċ was a thematic exhibition contextualised within the worldwide community that was facing the COVID-19 pandemic. The technique used was in itself a metaphoric take to the dissolution of physical distance; thus the overlayed multiple exposures. thirty three came along following an invite by Gemelli Art Gallery to hold an exhibition within the premises. The presentation of works from across the years is more of a milestone than a crossroad. It is an evidence of the time that passes and the research done so far within the medium.
While new paths have always triggered my artistic progression, I am well aware that I’m venturing alone in this medium locally and feel there is much more to achieve by pioneering digital media into fine art.
JA: You deconstruct images through digital manipulation. Is this a reflection on the awry times which we are going through and showcasing disconcerting perspectives?
PM: By deconstructing existing imagery and reconstructing new ones, I engage in a creative exercise that represents a romantic continuation of what was before into a contemporary realisation of the new. Recycling serves to refresh what previously existed and giving it renewed value. This practice finds a parallel in the history of art, where discourse and critical thinking often emerged from or built upon previous movements.
Recalling Brikkuni’s 2012 song Nixtieq, I stand by the belief that the creative ethos prioritises reinvention over the creation of the new. In these turbulent times, the path towards improvement can only be forged by reinventing ourselves through a deepened knowledge of our past, rather than dismissing it altogether. We can confront and overcome our unsettling realities by engaging in a process of unlearning and deconstruction, which allows us to rebuild and renew ourselves from the ruins of our past.
JA: There is a strong pop factor in some of your works, which antagonises the ambiguity of the above-mentioned series of works. The starkness of the female nudes, on which you intervene pictorially, suggests Instagram and other sites, the selling of one’s body to the voyeurs that populate these social media platforms. Is yours a dig about the necessity of some to put themselves out there in the virtual world in a sort of disconnect with reality? Has the personal and the intimate been forever abolished? Has humanity become so shallow?
PM: While I appreciate your argument and understand the origin of your justified observation, it is important to note that my creative approach does not align with the common interpretation of self-representation in today’s social media culture. Instead, I offer a reversal of this notion, wherein my work creates a new mythology that redefines the digital realm as a source of hope and revelation.
I engage in a creative exercise that represents a romantic continuation of what was before into a contemporary realisation of the new
Through each line, texture, and field of colour, I present a personal odyssey that contributes to my own transformation and offers the viewer an opportunity for introspection, provided they approach it with a heightened awareness. Each ritual of creation is a newfound intimate, almost spiritual seance as aptly described by Laner Cassar in ‘sh-E – A virtual search for the Anima’ in Her Majesty – Essays on Pawlu Mizzi’s Visual Art Exhibition published in 2015. None is shallow. All is profoundly spiritual.
JA: The pop factor is very evident in works such as Anemone, Moving On and Nascosta in Piena Vista, in a technique which hints at Tom Wesselmann. Con Le Scarpe Nuove suggests the photographic work of Nobuyoshi Araki through its explicit ‘pin-up’ nature and maybe Daidō Moriyama. La Fine di Una Guerra reminds me of Mimmo Rotella in a subliminal way. Are these artists that influence your work or maybe there are others that you care to mention?
PM: While I am aware of the art of Moriyama and Rotella, I cannot say that they have been particularly influential in my own work. However, perhaps the aesthetic pleasure I find in the works of Piet Mondrian and Alphonse Mucha has indeed influenced my own creative output to some extent. As a graphic designer, I did follow the works of Tomato and Richard May during the early stages of my career. Nonetheless, my artistic influences have been more character-driven.
In this regard, I owe a debt of gratitude to local artists Alfred Camilleri, Vince Briffa, Austin Camilleri and John Grech, who have acted as mentors and friends, providing me with doses of guidance throughout my journey so far. I also find inspiration in children drawings and in random online amateur photographic galleries, as they offer a glimpse into a raw creativity that is most truthful to the creative urge.
JA: Any more comments?
PM: My research in art explores both aesthetic and sociopolitical themes. While some of the works presented, such as Anemone, Moving On and Daphne, directly reference social and political issues, others like Madonna with no child, Nascosta in piena vista, Ed e’ quasi come essere felici and Ubriaco build on the concepts I presented in my 2018 exhibition, Kobba and which delve into the intimately unknown.
thirty three will also serve as a pivotal launch pad for my next chapter in visual arts, which will aim at defying traditional paradigms of fine art. I would want my art to bring digital visual art into unexplored territories to provoke the viewer with novel, alternative perspectives of consciousness.
thirty three, hosted by Gemelli Art Gallery, Ta’ Qali, is on until April 1. For more information, log on to pawlumizzi.com.