Updated: Oct 16, 2020
We interviewed Malta-based professional artist Joyce Camilleri to find out more about her artistic background, influence, and contributions. Camilleri is an Artist in Residence for Culturally, and her residence exhibition can be found in our virtual Hanbell Gallery. Find the entire interview below, along with her advice for aspiring artists.
Born in Canada in 1980, Joyce Camilleri lived most of her childhood and adult life in her parents’ country of origin, Malta. After completing her first degree in art teaching at the University of Malta in 2002, Camilleri felt the need to further her studies in the field of art and started attending an artistic printmaking diploma course at the Malta School of Art under the tuition of Mr. Anton Grech. She also pursued further training at the International Summer Academy of Fine Arts in Salzburg, through masterclass workshops with German artist Michael Morgner. In 2017 Camilleri completed the M.Ed Artist Teacher degree at the University of West of Scotland, which was followed by the participation in a third masterclass workshop with Austrian artist Tobias Pils, at the International Summer Academy of Fine Arts in Salzburg.
My artworks value the poetic space of drawing for its power to unite verbal and non-verbal forms of expression through drawing and printmaking practices.
What do you aim to say through the themes in your art?
My artworks value the poetic space of drawing for its power to unite verbal and non-verbal forms of expression through drawing and printmaking practices. In this sense, whilst poetry reverberates mental images related to one’s personal experiences, I seek to create artworks that echo ethereal narratives, places, and emotions that reside in one’s soul and that emerge in the subconscious of the viewer. My work draws on a continuous state of becoming both as an artist and a researcher; a journey informed by a visual language that climaxes in captivating human, organic and spatial forms, which unite thought and action in the creative process. The latter process of becoming succeeds to transcend the linear boundaries of the paper, where new experiential knowledge is continuously formed and reformed.
What is integral to your work as an artist?
My art practice is deeply grounded in the regular and intensive dedication to life drawing practices, which I postulate as a practical site to rehearse my performative capacities of research resulting from a sheer fascination for human and organic forms. Just as Deyan Sudjic (2009) holds that most respectable designers dream of creating design archetypes of a lamp or a chair throughout their career, I consider the human form as a timeless archetype of contemporary visual art practices. Managing to master the design properties of the human form is no easy feat for it offers innumerable perspectives and structural possibilities that challenge one’s ability to see, understand and reinterpret as it draws on the meaningful relationship that exists between visual experience, iterative processes, and studio research. Eventually, such drawing practices culminate in the merging of drawing and printmaking techniques, generating an experimental element that welcomes unpredicted visual metaphors, which playfully explore a world of quasi-abstract human and organic forms and ambiguous landscapes.
How has your practice been affected by COVID-19?
COVID-19 meant endless stretches of time when the whole family is present at home. Juggling between family time, art teaching and artistic research was not easy, especially since I find it very hard to be artistically productive with people around. Having a detached studio on the first floor provided me with the necessary space and possibly full concentration, however, there were loads of bargaining involved until we all found the right balance. On a more positive note, spending more time at home allowed longer stretches of time for my studio research, where the artistic process prevailed, consenting me to test new materials, media, and techniques in a solid manner. Unfortunately, I had to pause my regular life drawing practice, which has always served as a main source of inspiration for my studio research as well as a means to upkeep my observational and drawing skills. I resumed life drawing sessions five weeks ago, where I gladly rediscovered my deeply rooted fascination for the human form.
What current art world trends are you following?
My work is grounded in fine art practices and traditional media through which I conduct ongoing research in the contemporary role of drawing. I admire the expressive qualities of mark-making practices that originate in the works of iconic artists like Cy Twombly and Franz Kline. Such works are characterized by a timeless state of incompleteness recalling mankind’s continuous journey of becoming on paper and beyond its linear boundaries. Since my work is process-based and defies all kinds of predetermined artistic practices, I particularly look up to the work of German artists Anselm Kiefer and Michael Morgner, where artistic progression is allowed to take over, thus nourishing one’s intrinsic sense of wonder for the unknown and bringing about instances of meaning-making and learning compelled by the artistic process itself.
As a professional artist, what is the biggest piece of advice you could give to an aspiring artist who is navigating the art world?
I here quote Karl Valentin who stated: ‘Art is beautiful, but it requires a lot of work’. Such a statement perfectly describes an artist’s life that demands a ton of hard work, a bagful of patience, and last but not least, a pinch of luck and magic. Be faithful to yourself, do what you love, and never stop learning new methods and approaches to art. Be confident in what you do and never fear challenging your knowledge in search of new perspectives and avenues of thought. Artistic research is key. Finally, be patient until you meet the right person, who will believe in you as much as you do.
View Camilleri's art in her residence exhibition in our Hanbell Gallery or a small collection in our Community Gallery