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Bringing Art to UM Library:
British artist Derek Nice donates one of his sculptures to the UM Library

British artist Derek Nice, who has a long association with Malta going back to the 1960s when he was an art teacher at the Royal Naval School tal-Ħandaq, recently generously donated through Mary Samut-Tagliaferro, one of his works to the UM Library. The sculpture of a camouflaged battleship is formed from a profiled timber which originally supported the engine block of a traditional Maltese fishing boat known as a “luzzu”.  

The sculpture, made out of discarded boat parts and driftwood, reflects Derek’s lifelong interest in maritime archaeology for which Malta proved to be in the artist’s own words a “rewarding resource”. Here the artist is concerned with expressing the “spirit” of the ship by means of “fragments of fishing boats broken by sea storms and discovered washed ashore”. Through this sculpture the artist not only captures the essence of the ship but also explores its construction as well as its gradual degradation by the elements. The camouflaged ship, as exemplified in this sculpture, harks back to a form of military deception adopted by the British Admiralty in WWI that was intended by means of the paint scheme to deceive or confuse an enemy’s visual observation. 

This sculpture was formerly in the garden of the farmhouse belonging to Derek Nice’s father-in-law, the British artist Victor Pasmore (1908-1998), in Gudja Malta, where it was displayed to good effect in a setting which allowed for its tactile ‘hands on’ character to be enjoyed.

Text: Mary Samut-Tagliaferro ; Photo: Jason Pawney


Plate 1.0: Wood sculpture of a camouflaged battleship by artist Derek Nice, ca. 110 x 11 x 40 cm.
                UM Library, Archives & Special Collections Department


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