‘Reflection’ runs from January 6 to 28
Reflection is a new exhibition to kick start Arthall Gozo’s 2024 programme.
The show is collaboration between three artists with a brand new collection from resident artist Tomas Hed, a debut gallery show in Malta for Gozo ceramicist Jane Birchall and two paintings by Irish artist Kristina Huxley (whose work is in the permanent collection of the Rothko Museum) that reflect the light so they serve like a mirror, including the context and the viewer in the picture.
The works play with the idea of what is real and what is perceived, and reflects on both reality, limited by our senses and consciousness, and also our place in society.
“I think it is the responsibility of an artist to remind people to ask questions,” smiles Hed, speaking to Times of Malta.
For this latest series, he has been inspired by the colour black and Goya’s Black Paintings. “Black represents the unknown,” he explains.
On one wall, a large painting inspired by Goya’s The Drowning Dog is completely black in a multitude of hues and shades that play with perspective: some reflect the light and others are a ‘super-black’ that absorbs all light. The dog silhouette is therefore a dark shape that might equally be a deep cave or a black hole.
“This is perhaps a comment on the world around us,” says gallerist Marta Obiols Fornell.
“It’s as if we were all in Plato’s cave, where everything is a copy of something else and a reflection of a reality that we cannot grasp.”
On another wall, Give or Take is one of the colourful compositions for which Hed is best known.
Two figures sit back-to-back, and the left-hand figures is surrounded by wildlife, evocative of cave paintings that are often an inspiration for Tomas, whilst the character on the right sits trapped in a bare room by the mechanised cogs of industry.
Also playing with the dichotomy we straddle, of the natural world and global industrialisation, a black textured piece, Picador, has a red dot that looks planetary or offer alternative different perspectives on the world: might it be natural volcanic rock with a touch of fire or the effects of heavy industry?
Look out too for a smaller canvas, an experimental piece in grey with a large ‘letterbox’ in black.
The works play with the idea of what is real
“It’s an escape window from a cell,” explains Hed, “and shows the smallest sized hatch through which a prisoner might squeeze. It invites the viewer to reflect upon the reality of being locked away with no idea of the ‘reality’ for the people outside. Are we all locked in our own personal circumstances?”
Working people and authority are co-dependent: without the other, one cannot exist, continues Hed, and Etiquette shows a figure of authority in a hat like a bishop’s mitre, suppressing those around him – men in fields, mothers nursing their babies, and dancers too, but who is he without his uniform?
And as perhaps the finale of the show, a large painting of a flamenco dancer holds a guitar, from which a screaming red stripe descends like dripping blood, representing passion and life. Her upturned face appears in a diffused light whilst an eerie death-like character peers over her shoulder.
While Hed’s intriguing paintings draw on the narratives of his subconscious, Birchall creates striking rugged ceramic vessels that are a reflection of Gozo itself.
Each of her hand-built stoneware vessels speaks of a specific locality on the island. Moulded and textured by fingertips on the outside, inside layers and layers of different glazes and multiple firings have produced some extraordinarily luscious interiors.
The Short Tale of the Eagle is a larger bowl in the rust reds and blues of the sand and sea at Ramla where the short-tailed eagle was, apparently, last seen in 1992: at its heart the glaze created an eagle shape purely by chance, Birchall explains, and the contrast between the almost bullet-like metallic sheen of the bowl’s exterior and the sleek shadow of the eagle within raises questions about the islands’ passion for hunting. Will it ever return to Ramla?
Mġarr – Fuelled by Night also reflects upon environmental concerns: while a gorgeous iridescent blues and greens, the interior of this bowl glints evokes oil on the water in the harbour.
Alongside the glazing on a trio of pieces, Salt in the Pan evokes age-old salt crystals and the largest piece in the show is Dwejra – from Dawn to Dusk. Celebrating Dwejra, a designated dark sky area, this bowl’s highly glazed interior shimmers in midnight blue like a starry sky.
Reflection runs from January 6 to 28. For further information visit arthallgozo.com.