(Archives) Ryan Falzon
With Ryan Falzon's latest instalment at Spazju Kreatif coming to a close, Tpespis looks back at one of our first encounters with the artist and his work, back when Tpespis consisted of handful of people, conducting interviews for curiosity's sake. This unpublished article was written following our conversations with Falzon in early 2016. An insight, if you may, of the artists thoughts - through words - of which we now see take shape within his work.
TPESPIS CONVERSATIONS: RYAN FALZON (2016)
Following his Valletta exhibition “Quick Fix: A Morality Tale” in January 2016, which extended itself to a fond audience, the Tpespis team sat down to speak with Ryan Falzon on his work, thoughts and inspirations.
We made our way to his studio-cum-garage in Zurrieq, where he works alongside an unnamed yellow bird. His workspace - a capsule of unexpected energy amidst the small town where little happens, the only reasonable landmark being an obsolete windmill.
His work is dense: Culturally rooted and inclined to a certain discord. Of the exhibition’s we've visited on the island over the past few years, this show has conducted my thoughts more so than any other. I revisited the works 4 times following its opening night. The large crowd then, which although was no doubt a buzzing ego-boost for him, made it difficult to appreciate the pieces in their depth. His work necessitates patience. The layers, both literally and symbolically which he imbeds within them, take root in cultural and socio-political terms. A bi-product, he says, of punk rock. Growing up in his time, most teenagers were inclined towards pop artists, Eminem was a booming icon back then, and punk had begun its descent.
It is punk which gave him the realisation that music is not simply about sound. It is instantaneous, quick and heavy, and above all, it is an undeniable medium for protest.
Some of his greatest influences were those he met in Malta’s punk scene, namely those who had been around when the music of rage was at its peak. He acknowledges them, and the music as the drive and inspiration he required to simply create; a means of channelling his anger and thoughts.
The common factors between punk and his works are evident. Shock pieces, whether subtle or air-dried in the sun, mixed with an intellectual capacity inhabit the underbelly of his art. Expressing the idea that art must be rooted in a cultural context, he believes that no art can be made in a vacuum. It is the links which make the art, however, when a population is seemingly predisposed to an artistic norm: religious figures, landscapes and the like, how can an art scene advance?
Initiatives to sensitise the population towards the appreciation and cultivation of the arts are futile to him. He states that it, like punk music simply cannot be forced upon people. Rather, what is required are independent efforts, not limited to white-walled exhibitions. The community must be saturated in various forms, to jolt in various, albeit small ways. The key is individuality, a ‘just do it’ attitude.
He is critical of Malta’s art boards.He claims, their emphasis in revolves too much on local work, with a total disregard for works that are good beyond their aesthetic purposes. The excessive inclusivity of the Maltese art boards does not help. When all it takes is a good proposal for funding, final pieces leave a lot to be desired. “We need criticism to advance” he says, “alongside harsher curators, if not Maltese then certainly from abroad. As much as art should be culturally associated, if foreign works need to be imported to showcase good art, then so be it.”
His sentiments towards the topic are shared by many of the community. With V18 warming up, it is a wonder if efforts towards an advance given the event will prove fruitful. The values which Falzon abides by, however, are admirable. He is not deterred by the permeability of the arts in Malta - and cements such disciplined standards within his works.
Externally he is calm and soft-spoken - but every now and then I get glimpses of a firey, hard-headed undercurrent. A downright necessity for the intensity of his work and consequently, the significance of his art.
His next solo-exhibition, "We lost the War" opens at Spazju Kreattiv in Valletta. An exhibition, he says, “about inner conflict, breakups and manifestation of violence. Referring to the idea of loss on two main levels: the violation and exploitation of the notion of national identity, along with personal losses.”