When art meets sumptuous words...
From the pen of ANDRÉ CARBONARO
André Carbonaro is a 1974 product. Valletta born and bred, writing and reading have always been an integral part of him. Author of Tieqa - a collection of poems in Maltese published earlier this year, he has a number of projects in the offing, including “The Valletta I love – A tale of one City” and a historical novel based on the events of the great siege intermingled with a love story.
An art aficionado, André stumbled in New Life Bar’s Kamra ta’Fuq quite by coincidence and being the writer he is, he decided to write about what he saw, and lo behold, his writings were positively greeted by those who read them. His attention to detail intermingled with a humoristic touch manage to keep the reader hooked and waiting for more.
Larger than life you never know what André’s next target will be… so stay tuned.
'THE LAST BREATH'
published on the Sunday Times - 02/01/2022
The curator of Katel Delia’s installation at Kamra ta’Fuq spoke to me before I visited and told me to expect the unexpected. As I stepped in the dark ultraviolet lit room, I was gob smacked, humbled, in awe. A whole new reality was staring there at me, disguised in beauty, taking me from the heights of the heavens to the dark profound abyss of the seas, depicting the Mediterranean not as we know it in postcards or holiday brochures, but as the last place of rest of almost 23,000 souls that lost their lives in the hope of a better one.
Usually, the art exhibitions I view, installations et al, transport me into a surreal world, where myth, imagination and surreal mingle to produce something beautiful. Here in this darkness, the artist has given us something real, something that was there in front of us all the time but for some reason or another we chose not to see, or perhaps we decided to skim through, let go of all the gory details and focus on something more pleasing.
This installation will bring you to your senses. It is a cry for help. It is a wakeup call for all of us here that wake up in comfortable beds, have jobs to go to, live a busy social life, have a family that is safe and sound, find time to visit art exhibitions and go to the theatre. Well, this is the true theatre of life for those who out of necessity have to leave their homeland with the prospect of seeking pastures new, their Valhalla, the promised land. Then it all crumbles like Babylon in a few minutes, in a few fateful instances. There crammed in those wooden boats, painted sky blue, like the skies of the beautiful lands they hope to reach in their minds, they find their fate. They realize that the dream is over, that their lives are over, that they will not hug their children again, that all their sacrifices were in vain.
Alone in that room, I feel the silence engulf me, there is an aura of doom, gloom, amidst the cold blades of the biting waves that take over their vessel, claiming it and their future to add it to the macabre collection that lies beneath. They look up at the heavens, as they struggle in vain to take their last breaths. The stars look magnificent up there, yet they look sad, almost weeping, like reflections of the souls that were lost in this same sea before them. The Paradise that they have dreamt of for days, weeks or maybe years seems to dissipate in an instance as the cold salty waters fill their lungs, as their tears mix with the tears of others meeting the same fate, as the last of the air bubbles are exhaled from their ailing and tired bodies to reach the surface, which surface they themselves will never see again.
The lights in the room flicker, weak, like my legs as I notice how many of these brethren have lost their lives even almost before starting their journey. I wonder if their spirits talk to each other down there when their lifeless bodies rest in the silt of this sea that many consider the jewel of the world. I wonder if they are envious as tourists gore on the rich buffets on the cruise liners that pass from above them every day, as they hear the music of the parties held on the yachts of the privileged. I wonder.
And yet with all our Politicians’ talk, with the European Parliament philosophies, with all our arguments, still not enough is being done to grab the bull by its horns and end this genocide once and for all. We choose to conveniently turn away from all this, maybe because the skin colour of these people is different from ours, maybe because we prefer to look at the Mediterranean sea as the pristine turquoise waters that we dip in during the lazy summer months, sipping Spritz and donning designer swimwear. These human tragedies are happening on a weekly basis, many are reported but hundreds of others happen away from the light of the cameras and remain unreported, the victims forgotten as they become part of the sand and the silt that lies beneath the calmness of the blue waters.
Our silence and our failure to speak up are the biggest accomplices in this human tragedy. Katel has shown guts in exposing all this but now it is up to us to turn words into action and try to do something tangible in order to ensure that this massacre stops once and for all. Visit Kamra ta’ fuq, see for yourselves, then decide if you want to be accomplices too.
'AĦMAR ĦELU W'QARES'
Sat on cloud nine are a group of friends, all great artists, to be more precise, all of whom have given their version of the divine while passing through Earth. As they pour claret in golden goblets, they zoom in to take a closer look at what that bearded being did to their works there cosily tucked in the KAMRA TA' FUQ in that little village with a big heart called Mqabba.
Bouguereau smiles knowingly as he sips his share of the divine red concoction, he can feel the connection and knows exactly where Darren Tanti wants to take his audience for he too, maybe not as audaciously, had used mythological themes and made modern interpretations of classical subjects. Giambattista nods approvingly at him for Tanti’s rendition of the Apotheosis not only has given this work a breath of immortality but has also highlighted details that would have perhaps gone unobserved in the original works.
From Couture’s Roman Decadence to the more sombre subjects of Hone, our artist, with his vivid imagination and daring hand has managed to find a connection – that of the divine with the mortal and more over that of the sacred with the profane. Others will be joining the fare to take a closer look at Kamra ta' fuq and see what Darren did with their masterpieces, more claret will be drunk and with good celebratory cause.
What Tanti created is certainly not run of the mill and a first glance one might be outright gobsmacked. He gave us the full circle, the Alpha and the Omega, the circle of life, the birth of Scarlet and the passing of his grandfather, the regeneration – through blood, through the colour red with emphasis on the bittersweet experiences of life.
The step Darren made required courage and an uncommon inspiration. He has already treaded in unchartered waters and I am sure that for him the (red) sky is the limit!
'OUT OF NOW - Beauty Reimagined'
If you are one of those who had the impression that dreams and dreamers died when John Lennon passed, then you should take a step back, breathe and sip on your whisky and meet Alex Attard and his works at the Kamra ta’ Fuq in the quaint village of Mqabba.
Alex dares to take us where few dare go. Looking at death in a way that screams “I’m alive”,”I am life”, “I give life”. Maybe it is not a co-incidence at all that the exhibition is being held at the New Life Bar’s own showcase.
The contours, the wrinkles and the creases paint a picture of life lived to the full, an existence full of stories to tell, secrets to behold and a future in waiting, eager to keep the legacy going on.
The flowers seem to emulate the same creatures that they had intimate relationships with in order to keep the family line running. They seem to be blushing at these thoughts while reminiscing, but they are not worried the least that their glory days seem to be over in the eyes of many, because deep down they know that the best is yet to come.
Alex imagined, and through the meticulous and professional use of his lens, managed to capture living souls hidden under the cloak of mortality. His subjects seem to smirk because they know that death becomes them. They know that their beauty is merely transitioning and not fading.
Every frame offers us a glimpse at a different world, a different dimension and a unique look through a wormhole that is exclusive and totally unattached to any other and yet, connected by a virtual umbilical cord that is carried by the same wind that makes pollination possible, thriving in kaleidoscopic-like micro worlds not visible to the naked eye but very much present.
Here the sweet sadness of passing is pictured in a way that gives us hope in the knowledge that life and death are but mere stages of existence, that the day we were born was not necessarily the day we started living and that the day we die will not be the day we stop doing so!
Out of now is well versed to give us a new perspective and a new edge that will make us re think many of the theories we had taken for granted for too far too long.
The scent of Dalli’s women - Thoughts on 'Din Hi Li Hi'
I waited patiently downstairs as the visitors trickled out slowly, with a content look on their faces, like the one you would sport after a good meal. I could read the satisfaction in their facial contours, the experts, the curious ones, the rich few, the sceptics and the critics, they had seen what they had come to see and more, so now I wanted the room all to myself, I wanted time with Dalli’s creations, to study their lines, their aloofness, their flesh, their skin, their expressions, and above all their flawless flaws.
Their silence is not to be mistaken for shyness, for the women are neither shy, nor timid, they are aloof, lost or discovering the world that our artist has created for them, exploring and making the best of the silent mood that floats in this ambience. With each stroke, each dab of paint, Dalli helps these delicate but strong beings form a relationship, an intimate connection with the canvas and the other media he uses. The empty spaces, the whites, are the glitches of the matrix, the portal, to the parallel world that the ladies scurry to when no one is looking.
Patrick has given us the women of the world and these same women have given us Patrick in return, step by gradual step, we can observe his line of thinking from the first faint playful lines to the final application of paint… like that breath infusing kiss that brings stills to life, bringing in light where there was darkness, warmth where there was chill. Like the scene from the famous movie that bears almost the same title as my humble piece, I could literally close my eyes and feel their presence, smell their scents and listen to their heartbeats, beating at different paces as if Kamra ta’Fuq was their whole universe.
I find myself unknowingly second guessing what the thoughts of Dalli’s women were, what was running through their minds, and I started to relate, the ones that reminisced, the one that had dark thoughts, the mischievous ones, and the others that guarded their secrets too closely to ever guess what ever went through their wits.
By the time I had spent enough time with these beautiful creatures, I too had a smile on my face, perhaps not only because I got to know them better and shared space and thoughts with them, but maybe, also because through them I got to know Patrick a tad better as well.
What Dalli manages to create, be it with ink, charcoal, water colour or oils is deep, well studied, and unique with a style that can never be imitated. With no disrespect or presumption, I dare say that he is a forerunner in his field, and that he is quite a few laps ahead.
Thoughts on 'In the name of the Mother... and of the Daughter...'
I stumble up the fifteen or so steps that lead to Kamra ta’ Fuq. The anticipation for this exhibition has been gradually building up for the past weeks now, and to be honest, I negotiated my way up with a clear picture of what to expect. Only, the impressions I had preset in my mind and the manifestation that Nik Keter was presenting were two totally different worlds, maybe parallel in thought but different in expression, boldness, and arrangement.
Subconsciously I find myself embarking on a journey through a mystical umbilical cord floating through the strengths, the insecurities, the dreams, and the credo that the young artist is so boldly presenting. This is a perfect description of a full circle that keeps generating itself, engendering energy from energy and transforming it into a sublime depiction of love, protection, and security.
Nik delves into her inner self, opening up through a medium that helps her express herself in a way that she would not do conventionally. She gives us the mother, not just her mother, but a creator of life, more than a physical being, she portrays a thought, a spiritual bubble, into which we retract to whenever we feel threatened, scared or alone. The mother Keter gives us is the foundation of life itself, a crude, yet impeccably detailed mutation of mother earth, the sacred and the pagan embraced in an intimate dance. The details are so intense that I can almost imagine roots growing from the tiled floor of Kamra ta’ Fuq, to embrace the paintings, the women and the fruit and the other creatures, mystical and real that are so boldly represented. You can feel the connection between one canvas and another. It is like they are evolving, intermingling through a passageway that leads to total unity between the creator and the created. The boldness and the size of the paintings are a clear message that the artist wants the whole world to know what her feelings are, she wants us to be a part of this universe.
I find myself unknowingly thinking of the women in my life, those who I love, those I loved, those who love me unconditionally and those that are no more. Undoubtedly this exhibition will trigger different emotions in every person that visits.
This is the beginning of a long journey for Nik, a journey through life that will take her places, some of which she will like and some others that will take her out of her comfort zone and realize that life is not an utopia. She has come of age, and the future holds great plans for her, I know that she will fulfil herself, I don’t know exactly how but one thing is for sure, she will never go with the flow.
Thoughts on FUGA MODUS
"Yesterday, I had the pleasure of visiting Joyce Camilleri and her Fuga Modus exhibition at Kamra ta' Fuq in Mqabba. These are my thoughts about it ......
At one point in our lives we have all found ourselves in a place, where either because a certain situation dictated the need, or simply because we were overwhelmed, we had to switch off, reboot, start afresh, wait for a storm to pass, reflect and weather it out. Hoping for a better future once the ball gets rolling again. It happens more often than we realize, sometimes a few minutes are enough, sometimes it is not so simple.
Confined to camp as most of us were a few months ago, literally forced to go into flight mode, Joyce Camilleri gives us a glimpse of how she saw the world through her striking eyes, when everything seemed doomed and numb. Her works are statements of hope, showing the light at the end of an obscure and dark tunnel. With her unique talent she has managed to extract and emit positivity from colours that we normally associate with gloom. Although seemingly sombre at first glance, her paintings are alive, inviting you to go through the journey with them, exploring the tumultuous season hand in hand, knowing that we will be basking in sunshine soon enough.
Though foreboding at first, each painting leads to a clearing, offering us space, and time to think. The powerful strokes of Joyce’s paintbrushes are met by luscious material, meaning to tell that no matter what blow we are dealt with, it is never too hard, and that no matter what, we will stand up again. This exhibition makes us reflect on whether it is time for us to take a time out, switch off, go in FUGA MODUS to come back again, stronger, better and full of life. Echoing Ernest Hemingway - The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places. And believe me, Joyce Camilleri has come out strong."
Thoughts on HER
Following a visit to the photography exhibition HER, by Clint Scerri Harkins, held at il-Kamra ta' Fuq, in Mqabba
A lens, and Clint....... the end product is something that one would never have dreamt possible. After you visit this exhibition you will never look at women in the same way. Clint Scerri Harkins had the audacity to show women in a way that few have before. Highlighting their strength, humanizing their vulnerability, exposing their beauty and lauding their perfect imperfections. His style, more than being unique is raw with a certain sophistication, such that one cannot acquire but comes a result of a fine eye, a never-ending imagination, and hours upon hours of patience. Clint not only shows mastery in his trade but has confirmed that he is a trend setter. His photos are not mere portraits but cult statements. They pierce your soul, boil your blood, and let your imagination free, shaking the gray matter in your head and amalgamating the surreal and the factual. I can guarantee that you will leave kamra ta’ fuq but the kamra ta’ fuq exhibition will not leave you. Clint will rubber stamp you with something that you never expected. The photography on show is a rare example of how black and whites can expose you to a million colours, a million shades, an infinite number of angles and perspectives. Scerri Harkins will go a long way…. We are lucky to have walked part of his journey with him and HER.
Thoughts on GATHERINGS
Illum iltqajt mal-hbieb Ta'Debbie. Klikkek, hbieb, u xi tnejn ta'qattaghni. Min jizzegleg, min kurjuz u min misthi, min jikxef u min jistahba u jipprova jintilef fid-dellijiet tal-isqaqien li l-pinzell u l-immaginazzjoni tal- habiba taghna holqu biex johduna dawra mal-kurriduri tal-immaginazzjoni li miz-zebgha holqot. Irwieh hajjin u ghatxana li jghidulna l-istorja taghhom, anke jekk din l-istorja tkun differenti min dak li pingejna ahna f'mohhna. Mit-tila tohrog tqanqila li fuqha jista jinkiteb mitt vers, u meta jinzel is-siparju u l-uniku sors ta'dawl fil-kamra ikun dak il-fanal b'dija safranija fil-kantuniera ta' triq San Bazilju, nisthajjel lil dawk il-figuri jharsu lejn xulxin jitbissmu u jghidu fuqna, ahna li morna hemm niccassaw lejhom bit-tazza tal-whisky f'idejna u sigarrett imdendel ma xoftejna minghalina nifmu. U naf li ghada se jtuna stamp' ohra, anglu iehor, se jtuna hjiel gdid halli jzommuna fuq ponot subghajna bit-tama li forsi xi darba nkunu nafu ezatt x'ghaddej mill-imtiehen ta' mohhom.... Suppost Debbie biss taf... imma mhux certa lanqas hi.
Today, I had the pleasure of meeting Debbie’s friends. One or two tough guys, groupies, and the usual cliques, only they had nothing usual about them. I met those with the kinky demeanour, the curious ones, and the wall flowers, the shy ones, and the outgoing souls. I met the exhibitionists and the voyeurs, and those who wanted to dissolve in the shadows that the fine strokes of Debbie’s brush created for them to take us on a roller coaster ride through the alleys and cul-de-sacs of her paint infused world. I saw living souls, eager to recount their story, even if their tale is totally different from what we had envisaged. These canvases evoke emotions that makes my left hand itch with wanting to write a thousand and one words, and when I’m alone in my head feeding on the pale yellow light emanating from the ancient lamp in Saint Basil Street, I convince myself that the characters that Debbie created are looking back at me giggling and gossiping and basking on the knowledge that they are the centre of attention and on the fact that no one will ever know what they are really thinking. Even mocking us for trying to look profound with our whiskies in hand and a dangling Marlboro. What tickles my imagination is the fact that I know that tomorrow they will give us another glimpse of what they have to offer, another angle of life on the canvas. They will keep us on edge, guessing and wanting to know more, trying to fathom what the windmills of their mind will offer us. I guess only Debbie knows all the answers but probably she has her doubts and questions too.
WIĊĊ IMB WIĊĊ
Konna ilna biex naghmluha. Li niltaqghu. Iltqajna go kamra f'rahal ghall-kwiet. Rahal, li f'dawn iz-zminijiet li flimkien qed nghixu taht is-shaba pandemika, il-hemda tieghu tinkiser b'xi tokk tal-qniepen mistrieha fil-kampnar u bil-hoss tal-magna diesel tal-vann ta' Marcell.
Tlajna fil-kamra ta'fuq kollha kemm ahna. Konna b'kollox tlett mija u sebghin. Nisa w irgiel, twal u qosra, hoxnin u rqaq, helwin, koroh,Nazzjonalisti u Laburisti, u anke xi wiehed jew tnejn tal-Olternattiva iddesffsu ukoll. Kaccaturi,ta'kontra l-kacca, u mal Maltin, Afrikani, u xi Svediza mnemmxa. Ohrog l-ghageb qaghdna kollha,u hadd ma ggieled. Tiskanta u titnixxef li min tlett mija u sebghin ruh hadd ma gerger. Kulhadd qaghad qiesu baqqa... kif poggiena Pawlu. U domna hemm mhux hazin sa anke gew hafna nies jiccassaw lejna u hemm min riedna fis-salott tieghu. U ghalkemm domna hadd ma niten.
Ma kontx naf lil kulhadd,Lanqas lil ta' hdejja stess, imma drajna lil xulxin malajr. Hallejna l-marka taghna fuq xulxin bhal timbru, jew kif inhu moda issa tattoo u naf cert li kif Pawlu jiddeciedi li ninzlu biex warajna jitilghu in-nies ta' Debbie ha nhossu mhux ftit in-nuqqas ta'xulxin. Pero fiducjuz li bhal mal-insara jzuru l-qabar ta' Kristu, u l-Musulmani Mecca, ahna xorta ser nibqghu inzuru l-kamra li fiha konna b'kollox tlett mija u sebghin ruh, u lil dak ir-rahal kwiet, u l-qniepen nergghu nisimghuhom, izda flok il-hoss tal-magna diesel tal-vann ta Marcell nibdew nisimghu il-hoss tat-tazzi jhabbtu flimkien u l-ilhna taghna nitkellmu ma xulxin... u ma kull min irid ikellimna.... bejn gidma u ohra mill-hobza ta' Antoine Farrugia
Thoughts on GOLGOTHA
For decades, the first things that sprung to mind on the very few occasions the village of Mqabba was mentioned in some conversation, were quarries, dust and fireworks, that is when we were not talking about sporadic shootings and my cousin’s wedding mass which, if memory serves me well, I spent the whole duration of smoking on the parvis of St. Mary’s church admiring the architecture around me. Tucked away behind the tunnel this little village has a soul of its own with secrets that until recently have been closely guarded by the residents and by those who have been artistically adopted by the thriving community of Bohemians that reside, live and exhibit there.
As luck would have it, and in the search of something different from the usual Hugo’s terrace, with a sudden whim and probably boredom, I drove to Mqabba on a Friday night to have a drink in one of the clubs there, I was acquainted to one of the bar owners there so I was hopeful that the company would not be too bad. After a few rounds of drinks, I was asked to join a table outside, and the warm night made this offer more inviting. I expected the conversation to revolve around feasts and fireworks but to my surprise I was soon discussing art and literature with a group of people who now I know have incredible artistic abilities. To say the least, I was intrigued, to say it all, I was hooked. It was the beginning of a special relationship with this village, and I started to visit regularly, mingle, and have a drink or two, while discussing relevant issues and gathering ideas for my writing. That is until the pandemic took us all back to square one.
If anyone thought that the world would now stand still, it surely was not this group of artists. With all the watering holes closed due to restrictions, they used their energy and imagination to create a space that would be the showcase of their work and of those who wanted to use it. Il-Kamra ta’ Fuq as it is aptly called, since it is situated in the upstairs room of the legendary New Life Bar has given birth and fostered a number of exhibitions that have impressed, inspired and encouraged.
Mark Mallia how do you describe such a character? To those who don’t know him he might appear angry, constantly fighting his demons and irreverent but when you dig deeper a delicate soul emerges, an artist that can only be understood through his work. Certainly not run of the mill, his paintings and creations scream in your face. Hurt, passion and love anger and betrayal intermingle through the genius of his media so that the end result is something that the artistic scene on this island has been left bereft of for decades. He has the audacity to expose his inner self in a way that only he can get away with. His partnership with Etienne Farrell causes a reaction of emotions bringing out the best of each other albeit with different tools. Etienne Farrell, what can I say, I was always in awe of this slightly strange girl, I remember her distinctly on cloud nine drawing on the chipped Formica desks in our prison like sixth form class, while the lecturer ranted about Antony and Cleopatra. She has certainly come a long way since then in both style and demeanor and I am sure she has a lot more to offer. Chapeau. Very few people can do what Antoine Farrugia can, that is, transforming a slab of rough globigerina limestone or any other stone into something so intrinsic, original, eclectic, fragile and yet bold and imposing. I dare say that Antoine, (besides being an excellent barman) is one of the most underrated sculptors on the island who can only become better and whose work should surely stand toe to toe with other contemporary works. In a few words, these artists have incredible talent, an art which they have offered to us to enjoy and explore in a village that has so much potential. Most of all they are a humble bunch, encouraging all those who want to further their talent. As a matter of fact, I am looking forward to an exhibition that will be open in mid-April by Pawlu Mizzi courtesy of il-Kamra ta’ Fuq. This pandemic related digital portraiture exhibit will be a feast to the eyes and will titillate the imagination of all those who visit. Pawlu thinks outside the box and every creation of his is a joy. I am no art critic, but I appreciate originality and am keen to explore new pastures. Observing these works has helped in no small measure to inspire me whenever I put pen to paper and pour my thoughts. Keep going strong my friends and good luck for your future endeavors. Looking forward to discussing these sitting on a tiny stool with a cold beer in my hands.
Bilfors titbikkem, tarah magħluq ,il-ħanut tal-bieb ċelesti,
li Gejtan kien jiftah min sbieħ filgħodu m’hemmx Ħdud u festi.
bilfors titbikkem, tarah magħluq, il-ħanut ċkejken tal-Imqabba,
li barra ftira, ħobża w te, kien ifur kollu imħabba.
Taqbiżlek demgħa bla ma trid, tara katnazz mal-bieb tal-ħadid,
u tiftakar fi żmien li flimkien qattajna, ma flixkun birra jew tazza nbid.
u f’moħħi qed jiġu l-iskultur , il-miġnun l-iehor dak il-pittur,
u min pulit u min bit-trab, ma jimpurtax għax kollha sħab.
imma hekk riedu, illi jagħlquh, bħal qiesu il-virus minn hemm xerrduh,
u hekk min għandu jibqa’ jiffanga, u min m’għandux jibqa’ bil-ġuh.
u jien jittama li jisbaħ jum sbejjaħ meta ż-żikk ta’ virus jgħidu li mar,
u l-Antoine nar’ jiftaħ dak l-imbierek ta’ New Life Bar !