Art should be a mirror of society and what the world has been through in the last two years is probably one that we never dreamt of experiencing.
An exhibition by Tina Mifsud is presenting us with a series of 18 mixed media paintings that were all executed during the pandemic and which were based on a two-week, emotion-packed experience that she has lived through late in the year 2020.
Being in a long-distance relationship was very complicated due to the pandemic and Costa Rica was the selected place where Mifsud and her partner shared two weeks of their lives completely absorbed in nature and each other.
Ever as interested in the human form, this body of work also reveals an intimate side of Mifsud’s life and an interest in portraying the depth of the rainforest the two were in. It is typical of Mifsud to select such an intimate experience to be the subject of her third solo exhibition.
As some may know, Mifsud is not one to shy away from making herself the main subject of her work, revealing her own flaws in awkward self-portraits, making it a talking point about body acceptance and body image and such. Intimate self-portraits, sometimes in awkward poses, were the subject of her second solo exhibition, Point of You, late in 2020.
Both of Mifsud’s two previous solo exhibitions promoted body confidence and, in the second, there could even be a discussion of the contemporary female artists “reclaiming their own bodies”, that is, deciding for themselves how women should be portrayed in art, rather than have the male gaze dictates the posture and more.
And, with her third solo exhibition, we can turn to the artist-muse relationship, one that for centuries has been dominated by the artist being the male and the muse being the female, often disregarded and outshone by the male.
“Rapidly executed brushstrokes enhance the chaotic element and there is depth in the many layers that make up these compositions and in the selected hues”
Yet, she has now slightly shifted her focus, not only from the Mediterranean to the Americas. We see her changing her subject and her style of execution, exploring more of herself, her relationships and her surroundings.
The paintings exude all of this. The main protagonists are the rainforest, the human form and the romantic relationship, representative of chaos, beauty and danger. All of these elements have inspired artists throughout history.
The way in which the lush vegetation has been portrayed provides an unknown quality, an element of danger, and it provides a parallel with the relationship that is being captured on canvas. Rapidly executed brushstrokes enhance the chaotic element and there is depth in the many layers that make up these compositions and in the selected hues.
And, on close inspection, one notices scratches and text inscribed onto the canvas and drawings added over the paint layers. The inscriptions are, in fact, text messages exchanged between the couple. This is perhaps the result of a hyperactive mind at work. Again, these layers represent the rainforest but also the couple’s relationship with its many unknowns.
The result is a captivating series of paintings that are immersed in greens but also balanced by neutral and flesh tones. In this exhibition, we are witness to an evolution in Mifsud’s style, one who is experimenting with brushwork and working with mixed media.
Some of the paintings do look like more traditional landscapes, such as Beauty, however, there is a lot of imagination at play, of course, as a result of her very personal experience and emotions. There is a lot that is real but a lot that can be fantastical.
The paintings were executed in Mifsud’s studio, including some studies that similarly form part of this exhibition. And while we are aware of Mifsud’s very real experience, we can still wonder whether what she has portrayed is a factual or dreamt-up world that she is inviting us to partake in.
The exhibition further captures the attention of the audience by the transformation of the Malta Chamber of Commerce courtyard into a mini rainforest. This creates a more immersive experience, one that is as intimate and as close to what Mifsud herself experienced. In order to achieve this, the artist worked closely with the exhibition’s curator, Andrew Borg Wirth.
Mifsud is providing us with an escape to her Rainforest, one that even if she herself had to go back to, would provide a completely different experience. This exhibition also reveals the intimacy of a relationship. And, once again, as vulnerable as these paintings may make her, she is proving to be more resilient than most.
Mifsud is certainly one to watch out for. She is not done evolving just yet.
The Rainforest is open to the public until February 24 at the Malta Chamber of Commerce. Consult the exhibition’s Facebook page for opening hours.
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