Published by NY ARTS BOOKS,
New York, USA.
Edited by Dennis Vella.
Critical Essay by Stanley Borg.
Foreword by Tereza de Arruda.
During his artistic career, Norbert Francis Attard has used many different media to produce a wide variety of work. Each piece is not so much an isolated work as an individual element of a larger composition which not only speaks to itself but also to its surroundings. This ability can be traced back to his roots as an architect and also be sensed in his previous twenty years of activity as painter and printmaker. His own approach to architecture reflects the everyday human experience – that the conflict between space, form, material and structure controls contemporary existence. “The here and now of a piece of art is reflected in its existence at the place where it stands. In the course of its existence this first impression and nothing else will determine its story and how it is appreciated”. In his art, Attard does not concern himself with copying nature or custom building objects per se. He is on a journey of discovery in a world where raw materials offer themselves to his creativity. His task has more to do with the reproduction of objects which have been newly formed by Attard himself. In this way they are freed from their old function or association, and have a new existence as a work of art, inhabited by a new aura which goes beyond its primary meaning in the world of art. At first sight many of his objects appear unusual: the original form or predecessors provide plenty of room for Attard’s ideas. A good example of this method of working is seen in the installation “Zwölf Dialoge“ (Twelve Dialogues) presented at Gozo in Malta in 2000. For this work the artist had 28 chairs made of Swedish pine built which, just as in a game, could be combined in many different ways and acted as objects or witnesses reflecting human behaviour. The new compositions embodied sculptures which were christened with different names: “Familie/Dreieck“ (Family/Triangle), “Gleichgewicht/Konfrontation“ (Balance/Confrontation), “Gerechtigkeit/Diktatur“ (Justice/Dictatorship) for example. The objects, realization of emotions, were displayed in the warehouse where the wood was originally stored – back to the origin. These thoughts form the basis of his artistic interpretation and provide an aura to his works of art which is continued in the new series. His latest series Four Olympics was exhibited at “Project Artiade 2004” in Athens during the Olympic Games. The Foundation Artiade intends to bring back to Humanity the essence of the Olympic Games. Its roots were known as Platform for country representations not only in the sports but also in the art field, so that the different cultures could be connected by the same feeling and impulse. In parallel to the Olympic games Artiade presented an art exhibition with the participation of artists from the Olympic nations. Four Olympics consists of videos, sculptures and photo objects: Olympic Kiss, Boat Race, A Bit of a Boat, and Footnote. This diverse constellation was chosen to capture the collective feeling of the different cultures and ideologies of those gathered in Athens during the Games. Boat Race and A Bit of a Boat remind one initially of ships. On closer inspection the observer notices that these objects are detached from their original function. Changes to the scale and to the surfaces paradoxically prevent them from being used as a means of transport. Attard gets his inspiration from everyday things and, as such, banal objects are born again as newly created works of art created. Boat Race is a monolithic sculpture that achieves its autonomy through its presence. Its open form resembles a skeleton that appears to double in size through shadow play in space. Attard uses the organic form of his sculptures to investigate new forms of expression of human behaviour and adaptability. Attard’s precise wood designs are reminiscent of the Russian Constructivist Vladimir Tatlin who experimented with environment-like space. Whereas Tatlin preferred vertical construction Attard concentrates more on the horizontal. A Bit of Boat is composed of seven different individual sculptures. The whole composition works like a theatre production where each object takes on its own role. The work uses the ship-like basic form as a continuation from Boat Race. The care and attention to detail transmit a warmth to the observer that serves as an invitation to explore the object or to even try it out. With the smooth surfaces offering a perfect place to relax or lie down. Attard demonstrates the metamorphosis of his works by inviting the observer to become part of them. This self-portrayal works as a performance to provoke new experiences. The parallels between performance and sculpture arouse an unusual sensibility with controversial and unconventional characteristics: “This new approach throws up more questions than answers to the problems of the relationship between art and reality, art and other objects and art and its manifestation. It is an attempt to capture time and space, change and changeability in the moment”. Attard has also experimented here using wood as a raw material to see how it transforms into a new composition. With this process the artist is able to produce precise, highly aesthetic openings on the surface. By using geometrical forms, like window openings cut into their surfaces, his sculptures take on a strong architectural character. From inside and out they offer many different views that change depending on the position of the observer. Although this group object is not meant to be entered, because of its experimental composition it works as a “Pendance” to Daniel Liebeskind’s Jewish Museum in Berlin. This building is one of the most striking examples of harmonisation between architecture and sculpture. The exhibition space chosen by Attard for A Bit of a Boat is a small, closed and disused room in the warehouse. This backdrop embodies the transience and abandonment of modern times. Attard’s paragons are the high-rise buildings on the outskirts of cities that, despite their modernity, have been left to ruin. A curious parallel can be drawn to Attard’s birthplace, Malta where old ships await their fate of death and decay. From this point of view the sculptures, through their form and material, could be perceived as coffins. Sculpture in general is accepted as a metaphor for the human body because of its size and volume and how it stands in space like the observer. Footnote uses a contemporary symbol – a Nike shoe – to symbolize human cultures of industry and sport. It embodies the modern day myths of speed and the future. The latest ads market this not as a product but as a motivation: “You are faster than you can imagine”. Attard has produced this picture using a poetic text that plays with the development of language and history of his country. The picture folds out like a screen which divides the space – an expression of the tension between tradition and innovation. The video Olympic Kiss celebrates a symbol of love with a kissing couple. This act demonstrates the inner human impulse to communicate independent of background and language. This emotional picture is accompanied by a sobering text giving statistics and research facts to the act. The tension between rationality and sensitivity symbolizes a universal controversy. Universal symbols do not demonstrate identity of thought – this is also true for the cult symbol in Footnote – but rather make up a collective that is formed from many different subjective thoughts. “The key to a subject’s perception is experience not form; what Kant called formation, fundamentally deformation”. The deformation of a picture or object must not be seen as negative, but as allowing space for a new interpretation or a new beginning. The end should not be seen as the final word but as the starting point for the next experience. Even the artist’s fascination for using an abandoned industrial building as a platform for the presentation of his work is a sign of the new contextualisation of an existence, it turns the space alive through the new content. Through this attitude the visitor obtains a combination of different cultural points of view to recompose his own experience. A similar project from the point of view of duality between two existences was Beyond Conflict. It was done in Liverpool in 2002 during the Biennial. He involved the façade of the Oratory with red and green fabric creating a new barrier to be conquered by the public: visual, emotional and especially spatial. Considering the fact that the Oratory was used for burials this project received a second life. Another work, Container 21st.c. was produced for the International Container Festival in Taiwan in 2003. It emphasizes even more this context through the powerful displacement of the object/container also due to the fact that the sea water circulated from the harbour into the container as a sign of the continuation of the natural cycle. The artist does not necessary produce his works for neutral white cubes but for direct confrontation with people who make use of public spaces. The dialogue desired by Norbert Francis Attard happens then in a more natural way.
Born in Malta in 1977. Graduating with a thesis on Colonialism as a metaphor for the human existence, he went on to read existentialism as a philosophy and as an absence from British literature, especially in the middle years of last century. He is a freelance journalist covering lifestyle and cultural events. A committee member with cultural organisation Inizjamed, he collaborates in projects aimed at arming people with the weapon of words. His poetry, while being a concern with everyday urbanism and the mysteries behind manicured lawns, reflects the urban vernacular and describes instances of quotidian bricolage and street survival. His current work at the office of the Prime Minister entails monitoring and standardisation of public services.
TEREZA DE ARRUDA
Born in 1965 in Brazil and presently living in Berlin, Germany. Curated and collaborated many International art events and institutions, namely, Goethe Institut Inter Nationes in Brazil and Germany, British Council, Welsh Art International, DOCUMENTA 11 (Kassel, Germany), Art-Frankfurt 2003 (Frankfurt, Germany), Venice Biennale (Venice, Italy), Havana Biennale (Cuba), Istanbul Biennale (Turkey) and Sao Paolo Biennale (Brazil). Author of international articles in catalogues, magazines and newspapers as well as co-author of the German artist encyclopaedia Allgemeines Künstlerlexikon from K.G. Saur publishing house in Leipzig.