Cheerful, bright yet always gleaming with the excitement of always learning something new: this is how many staff and students know the well-respected Prof. Ġorġ Mallia in his role as Head of the Department of Media & Communications within the Faculty of Media & Knowledge Sciences.
His latest and first solo art exhibition, titled ‘Rhapsody-in-Pain’, is anything but. It is inspired by real-life grief, which he reconfigured in his visual scribblings, as he calls them. Being a communicator, and being “categorically against the stigma of male self-disclosure in moments of grief”, he feels that sharing his feelings, good or bad, was a natural choice. So much so that being so open has resonated with many who related to the pain and encouraged them to reach out.
The Newspoint Team met with Prof. Mallia to have a chat about his latest “extrusion of intense emotion”, as well as how important it is to not bottle in one’s emotions, but to allow them to instigate change via different media – one of the things the Department of Media & Communications intrinsically teaches its students.
Q. What inspired you to create the digital paintings in this particular style?
A. I must admit they are a bit formulaic, but this particular variation of the formula is one I have created myself… so in that sense, I suppose it’s an original.
I wanted to externalise the many manifestations of grief that were assailing me, and found that using Adobe Photoshop to create shapes that in abstract ways mirrored those feelings, using very raw, basic colours so they would pop off the page, did just that.
Q. What kind of response do you hope to elicit out of the visitors to the exhibition, other than the obvious cathartic effect?
A. I want visitors to the exhibition to emote with the paintings… to feel what touches them… to share with me the highs and lows of artistic creation. And, of course, I would like them to appreciate the aesthetics. I have never aspired to high art. The prints in this exhibition are visual poems; they are very poster-like in execution. That is, in fact, the whole point, because through the figures and the abstract backgrounds, I think they communicate well.
Q. Your digital paintings have been featured on Buzzfeed, and that’s thanks to your online presence. On the other hand, even if you don’t depict your past in your digital paintings, one can easily find a digital footprint of it. Is online presence beneficial, or detrimental overall?
A. Our online lives are always a double-bladed knife. Though Google and most social networks now have the possibility of “forgetting” parts of the past (and select posts), there will always be the skeletons that won’t go away. Nor should they, I believe. For the artist, online presence provides a back-catalogue… I suppose, the good, the bad and the ugly. But it’s still the oeuvre in its posted entirety.
Q. What is in the recent future of Prof. Ġorġ Mallia?
A. It is to have a future. And I look forward to teaching my next group of students, and being taught by them.
Rhapsody-in-Pain will be exhibited at 111 Art Gallery in Ta’ Xbiex from 6 to 20 March, 2020. Entrance is free of charge.