JA: Quoting from Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, “As for me, I am tormented with an everlasting itch for things remote. I love to sail forbidden seas, and land on barbarous coasts.” Do you feel, as an artist, that you are ‘tormented’ by such an itch?
TD: Well, I see my journey as a continuous, often tormenting pursuit to translate the intangible depths of emotion and perception into tangible, three-dimensional form. It’s an unyielding quest to convey what’s felt, recognising that complete translation remains just beyond reach.
Yet, just like a moth drawn to the irresistible allure of a flame, I’m helplessly compelled to keep striving. The torment lies in the unyielding gap between the infinite nuances of human experience and the finite materials of art, where approximation is the best that can be achieved.
Simultaneously, the exploration of the paradoxical nature of humans and life captivates me. It’s a quest to traverse the enigmatic terrain where opposites converge, where beauty and chaos collide.
The pursuit of harmony amid discord and the discovery of meaning in the midst of chaos, fuels my creative fire. It’s a journey that mirrors the complexities of existence, an exploration of life’s intricate dualities and the profound messages they hold.
JA: There is a caricatural dimension to your fish sculptures. You endow your creations with character, bringing out the grotesque in their facial expressions, as well as naming them, as in the case of Anġlu, Awrelia, Waylin and Anġelica. Do you feel that ‘humanisation’ helps to deliver a message, and if so, what message is that?
TD: Each fish sculpture is a personal journey to capture the serene moments I find when I dive into the sea and reach a meditative state. Underwater, the world’s noise fades, and I’m left with the tranquillity of the present moment.
While sculpting these fish, I acknowledge that every creature, regardless of its form, has its consciousness and uniqueness. Giving these aquatic beings human features is a conscious choice, a way to symbolise our connection with all life on earth – it’s a reminder that beneath the waves, there’s a complex tapestry of existence, including us.
Crafting these sculptures also reflects a deep yearning to be part of the ocean’s profound embrace. It’s a longing for the simplicity of life under the sea, where nature’s rhythms dictate existence, and where I can connect with the currents and creatures that inhabit this mysterious world.
JA: You come from a family of artists – the late Victor Diacono, one of our country’s foremost 20th-century sculptors, is your grandfather, and Andrew Diacono is your uncle. How has this enviable legacy rubbed off on your artistic development?
TD: As the first grandson of Victor Diacono, my early years were deeply intertwined with his artistic presence. I vividly recall those precious moments collecting clay from the cliffs, meticulously sifting out the rocks, and letting them dry on the rooftop. It was during these formative years that I was introduced to his unyielding passion for art. Even seemingly mundane errands, like a trip to the grocery store, could turn into hours of creative expression, as he would seize any opportunity to capture the essence of a street or scene on a receipt paper he found in the car.
Underwater, the world’s noise fades, and I’m left with the tranquillity of the present moment
I spent countless hours in his studio, a sacred space of dedication and artistry. Observing his techniques, his unwavering commitment, and his tireless work ethic left an indelible mark on my soul. Now, every time I sculpt or paint, I’m transported back to that state of awe and nostalgia. The hours slip away effortlessly, much like the time I spent with him. My studio has become my sanctuary, my happy place, and for this, I owe an immeasurable debt of gratitude to my grandfather.
My artistic journey is also profoundly influenced by the work of my uncle, Andrew Diacono. His modern approach and focus on life’s paradoxes have been a tremendous source of inspiration. It’s this fusion of tradition and innovation, of the past and the present, that guides my creative endeavours, compelling me to explore the intricate complexities of existence through my art.
JA: Your Wave series is about movement of this body of water. The individual pieces are differently moody, capturing the different humours of the oceans and seas. There is a sense of the empiric and elemental. What is the underlying concept?
TD: The Wave series is an exploration of emergence, a journey from the depths into the light. These sculptures are a testament to the transformative power of water, mirroring life’s ever-changing experiences. Beginning from a dark base, they symbolise the mysteries of the unknown. As they ascend, vibrant Prussian and cobalt blues represent the deep ocean depths.
Transitioning into ethereal sky blues signifies a gradual ascent towards clarity and tranquillity. Ultimately, the journey leads to delicate, glistening shades of white, signifying the emergence into understanding and serenity. Through this transition, I aim to capture the ever-changing moods of the sea and the transformative journey of the human spirit from obscurity to enlightenment.
JA: Traditionally, the fisherman is the thread between humanity and the wild marine expanse; this takes me back to Moby Dick and I’m asking you Melville’s question: “Consider the subtleness of the sea; how its most dreaded creatures glide under water, unapparent for the most part, and treacherously hidden beneath the loveliest tints of azure... Consider all this; and then turn to this green, gentle, and most docile earth; consider them both, the sea and the land; and do you not find a strange analogy to something in yourself?”
TD: The fisherman, serving as a link between humanity and the vast marine world, brings to mind Melville’s thought-provoking question about the subtleties of the sea and its connection to human existence. The sea, with its hidden depths and unpredictable nature, reflects the complexities and uncharted territories within ourselves.
Much like the sea conceals mysterious creatures beneath its surface, our own depths hold unexplored aspects of the human psyche. This analogy encourages us to consider the interplay of vulnerability and strength, calm and turbulence within us. It reminds us that the sea, like the human spirit, presents an enduring mystery, inviting us to explore the uncharted regions of our own souls and appreciate the delicate balance between the human and the elemental.
Eye sea you, curated by Melanie Erixon and hosted at Il-Kamra ta’ Fuq, Mqabba, runs until December 3. Log on to the artist’s Facebook page for more information.