THE ARCHETYPE SERIES
Published by Valletta Contemporary, Malta.
Critical Essay by Ann Dingli.
Foreword by Chris Briffa
"The Archetype series" is a fifteen-piece sculpture collection, each built from four-sided measuring rulers, appropriated and given new meaning and metaphor by artist Norbert Francis Attard. The series finds lineage the practice of found object art or objet trouvé, with strong links to symbolist, minimalist and conceptual art canons. Its point of departure is the object itself – a foldable tool known as a multi-angle template scale ruler. The ruler has been re-purposed as a foundational element in the creation of Attard’s ‘archetypes’. Each of the fifteen is presented as a vessel for wider social, cultural, political even metaphysical commentary. With each singular sculpture, Attard’s excerpted forms unlock ideas around a broad range of subject-matter – from the poetics of geometry to the transcendence of nature, the inescapability of pop cultural iconography, and the bleeding relationship between low and high culture. The series’ commonality lies in its offering of symbols, or ‘archetypes’, as custodians of deeper meaning. The series’ title converses with the legacy of Plato’s concept of ‘pure form’, which is believed to embody the fundamental characteristics of any given thing. Plato's Theory of Forms discusses the physical world as a mere image of what is 'real', a mimesis of ultimate reality that exists beyond what is material. Plato’s Forms are abstract, perfect, and constant – they supersede time and space and exist in the Realm of Forms. Attard sets off from this point of purity, proposing ‘purity of form’ as an initial phase in the creation of the series. The series also takes on the meaning of the word ‘archetype’ as a recurring symbol. This definition is honoured by the series’ uniform black colour, silver fixings and metal material, which remains constant across each sculpture. This formal consistency gives space back to the sculptures’ symbolic references. The ‘archetype’ therefore becomes the carrier of amplified ideas; the object is a mere framework – power is transferred from ‘object’ to ‘idea’ within the moment of reading. This transference shifts between abstraction and exactness across the different sculpture.
Ann Dingli is a Maltese art writer based in London with an M.A. in Art History (University of Malta) and an M.A. in Design Writing (University of the Arts, London). Her areas of studies have ranged from art criticism in mid-century Maltese media, to the artistry of Maltese modernist architecture, to evolving mediums of ‘place-writing’. In her early career Ann worked in-house with architectural practices building content around practice knowledge and projects, as well as helping to define and coordinate exhibitions, publications, talks and events. She formed part of the curation team for the exhibition ‘Novelletta’ in 2010, brought to The Building Centre in London by Architecture Project Valletta as part of the London Festival of Architecture. In 2017, she left full-time employment to pursue independent writing, editing, strategy and curation. She now works with practitioners from the globally renowned AIA Gold winning Adjaye Associates and RIBA Stirling Prize winning architects dRMM, to several emerging and established architects, designers, artists, galleries, and charities across Europe. Her content writing has been recognised at industry awards, including the 2021 and 2022 Dezeen Media Awards. In 2019, Ann opened a photography and text-based exhibition titled ‘The Spaces that Connect Us’ at Valletta Contemporary, Malta, with photographer Joanna Demarco, showing content examining the social constructs of an internetless society in rural America. In 2020, she curated ‘Other Places’, a watercolour exhibition by artist Sebastian Tanti Burlò, and in 2022 curated ‘The Archetype Series’, a sculpture exhibition showcasing the work of Norbert Francis Attard. Ann has contributed to several art books, including the recent exhibition catalogues for ‘fuse’, a site-specific art project delivered by the Valletta Cultural Agency, and ‘The Ordinary Lives of Women’, a collective, female-led exhibition at Spazzju Kreattiv. Ann has been writer and editor for Valletta Contemporary since 2018.
Born and raised in Birgu, Chris Briffa (1974) set up his architectural studio in Valletta in 2004, aged 30. Since then, the studio has become synonymous with skilful design concerned with proportion, material and detail, flawlessly merging the historical with the new, and integrating passive-energy design concerns with bold elegance. The studio’s design projects range from original product design to revisiting traditional artefacts and new builds, often blurring the line between art and architecture. Besides overseeing commercial, residential and public projects locally, the award-winning studio is currently engaged with a number of international projects, and is committed to its involvement in the organisation of workshops and exhibitions aimed at raising design awareness across Malta and Gozo. Chris studied at Virginia Tech (USA) and Politecnico di Milano (Italy) and is a graduate of the University of Malta, where he has since tutored hundreds of students within the faculty of architecture. He currently resides in Valletta with his wife Hanna and their three children.