Click here to edit title

Art Discussion Group - Malta


Serenity and Resolution

Tranquillity, serenity, peace and abject wonder are vital elements that emanate from Mary’s images. She communes with nature. The mystery, magic and enigma of the red disk of the sun rising or sinking into the ocean with the accompanying silence, peace and rest such resolution evokes and its mystic effect on man is the artist’s inspiration and what her expression intimates or suggests. 

Her symbiosis with mother nature, her child-like wonder at nature’s phenomenon, her non-violence are expressed in her work. Mary is a lover of nature, of peace, of meditative silence. She is a mystic and her most recent expression is highly spiritual, lyrical, poetic and transcendental. The artist refers to her camera as a ‘spiritual tool’ with which she can experience the divine.

Mary Attard hates labels. She reacts with claustrophobia if placed in a ‘box’ or category, if pigeon-holed. She resents labels such as photographer, artist or professional. Labels are limiting and disturb her. She does not fall into a category. She is anti-institutional and anti-establishment. As long as she can relate and communicate her feelings, emotions and sentiments, and as long as she can move her public, touch their heart or induce a catharsis, then she is satisfied. She is jealous of her freedom, of her liberty to express herself freely without impositions and inhibitions.

Mary’s creations are born from forms to become images through the power of ideas. All are related to habitat, to her environment and all are fragments of a wider discourse or argument, an infinite dialogue of an imagined wider world of reality. Reality is Mary’s obsession and being a natural philosopher her concept and vision is contemplating this profound subject.

What is reality? Is it the result of fantasy and imagination? Is reality relative? Or is there an absolute reality? Reality as conceived by Mary is relative and personal. In fact she refers to it as ‘my truth’ as her expression is universal. Each one of us creates his own reality, his own world and seeks to live it. Thus reality becomes personalised, individual, rare and unique. It becomes our truth, our creed and evolves into dogma and we jealously shelter behind it, protect and defend it from rivals, from friend or foe, and from creed it becomes faith. Art is perhaps expressing this personal reality that bridges the individual to the universal, to the collective imagination.

Mary has dreams. She lives for the reality she creates, for the truth she believes in; even if truth like reality is relative. Every person perceives his own truth, his own reality, his own art. Man might live a lie, an illusion. We refer to life as a short passage, a dream come true or a dream that evolves into reality, into experience.

Yet man is content to live his dream to the full ever hoping that tomorrow the sun would shine brighter, stronger and warmer. Man is ready to live in a loving relationship with nature in such warmth, in a loving and infinite embrace with life even if it is merely an illusion. Perhaps art bridges this illusion of a sham relationship with the disillusion or tragic sense of complete isolation, of complete loneliness and utter emptiness.

Love cures and strengthens man as the works by Mary Attard do too. Life, art and love merge and empower man to live a lie that educates and transforms experience into an ideal:  an artistic expression. Mary’s art is her ideal, her elan vital, her philosophy, her will to live in love of nature and man. 

Before Mary took up photography in earnest in 1975 her earliest phase was expressed in collage, assemblage and montage using found objects – pressed plants and flower material. Her works were intended for her personal satisfaction and enjoyment and not for exhibition. These works could be termed ‘arte povera’ made very crudely on pieces of odd cardboard and cheap glue, just to capture instantly what she had in mind. Some deteriorated and disintegrated but fortunately some resisted the test of time and are actually exhibited in this retrospective.

After 1975 Mary discovered with awe the fascination of photography after acquiring a Browning Kodak box camera. She attended classes at the Malta Photographic Society premises in Valletta under the tuition of a retired Englishman Charles Herbert. He taught her a novel way of seeing things and feels indebted and grateful to her tutor. Man Ray bore a great influence on her especially with his photograms and with great fervour she hoarded all sorts of object trouve’ such as feather, lace, minute objects that can be placed in an enlarger negative carrier to project on paper and anything with an interesting outline or perforations for imprinting on paper. The artist savoured this phase immensely.

In 1986 Mary’s adventurous spirit spurred her to travel abroad. In UK she attended a diploma course in photojournalism at the London College of Printing (1986-87). After successfully completing the course she was employed for a further year with a picture agency – an interesting and experimental job. After she returned home she often wrote illustrated features on varied topics for local and foreign media as a freelancer.

In the 1990’s the artist went through a phase that one can term more spiritual and emotional and therefore Mary needed an effective spontaneous medium to express subtle, intangible experiences such as a sense of rhythm in music, passion towards something or someone or the galactic movement in the universe. She needed something dry and not messy to grab a moment spontaneously, in a split second. Her mentor Anthony Lucian Cauchi who exploits soft pastel in a creative manner showed her how to handle the medium of soft pastels. She also joined art appreciation and criticism courses in history of art at AZAD in Republic Street Valletta.

In September 1997 the author organised a personal exhibition of Mary’s work at the Ministry Hall, St Francis Square, in Rabat Gozo. It was entitled ‘Timelessness’ and came about after experiencing a tandem parachute jump. Her photography was a formidable threat to tradition and convention with the use of modern technology. Her work almost 14 years ago was so innovative that she influenced a leading well known local photographer. Purposely photographed angled shots were mirror-imaged in her computer to form fantastic compositions as if gazing through a kaleidoscope.

In 1998 ‘Without Boundaries’ a critical essay by the author appeared in Malta This Month, the Air Malta In-Flight Magazine (January 1998, no. 94) an analysis of her vision and concept, of her prismatic phase. Dame Francoise Tempera awarded Mary Attard with a Special Commendation in Photography at the International Art biennale of 1999.

In May 2010 the artist participated in a large collective art exhibition: ‘Unity in Diversity’ at De La Salle Palace, the Malta Society of Arts venue in Republic Street Valletta. Her work ‘Reflections’ a strong colourful image was adopted by the Art Discussion Group (ADG) as the exhibition poster and logo. It became a hit within weeks with its bold impact and forceful nature. In 2011, the Art Discussion Group (ADG) invited her to its monthly event: ‘Meeting Artists’ (Tuesday 19th April) while concurrently she held a personal exhibition at the Intercontinental Hotel in St. Julians (18 April – 23 June). Actually the artist is holding a retrospective exhibition at Cavalieri Hotel in St. Julians showing a collection of 56 works outlining her career.

16. 07. 2011

E. V. Borg