SACRED RUBBINGS / OUT OF BOUNDS

As people, we declare something as ‘sacred’ if we care about it. Whether through the assistance of faith, or adapting our lives to a spiritual journey, the answer lie at the heart of us. Photos by Daniel Cilia

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Untitled X (2021) 156cm x 166cm, Graphite & ink on paper

Covid-19 restrictions seem to be lingering on and yet dedicated artists continue to break water. A revival of physical exhibitions is about to flood the capital this month. Contemporary artist Mario Cassar has already honoured us with his astounding solo exhibition, Sacred Rubbings, at the well-known art space, DESKO, in Valletta.

This June, the exhibition moved to the Gozitan artist’s hometown, to repropose a new meaning, one that calls attention to our perception of the term ‘sacred’. Cassar’s philosophical attribution to his works make us question this term as we are faced with a new reality, whereby fair means or by foul, we will be obliged to visit the exhibition online. This new reality provides a different take on the work. It encourages without weakening the concept. The experience of Cassar’s online exhibition will expand our knowledge of horizons, in which we will come to appreciate the notion of art for art’s sake.

What makes the contemporary artist’s works so riveting is not only the concept behind it, but also that of his idiosyncratic process. Cassar’s choice of medium is a mixture of graphite and ink, where he abides religiously to a technique called frottage. Every single work of Cassar’s multi-layered art is an expression of his introspections, each showcasing what he considers as sacred. Cassar’s practice, elaborately involves adopting and altering his designs from textured, monumental surfaces. These curious compositions are laced with undecipherable typography, a repetition of specific iconography, and the insertion of writings from his favourite philosopher, Michel Foucault. Foucault was known for his undeniable impact on the western world in re-assessing attitudes, particularly that of madness, illness, knowledge, and sexuality. Institutions and their so-called ‘remedies’ in exercising an ultimate form of power, were also questioned by Foucault.

Although Mario Cassar has not been able to travel recently, the dominant context of these works point to Cassar’s former travels; noticeably his journey to Jerusalem. It is difficult to disregard the symbolism between Foucault’s quotes, which stand out in markings of red on white paper, and the artist’s choice of subject-matter, (details that hold sacred importance). It is simpler to understand Cassar’s intentions in terms of this brilliant concept; in revealing a similar questioning nature to that of Foucault; perhaps to address incidences such as the re-occurrent Israel and Gaza conflict.

Cassar is known to have participated in multiple artistic endeavours – he has exhibited in Europe, the Middle East, and Northern America. The fourteenth solo exhibition of Sacred Rubbings/Out of Bounds will be more than just a ground-breaking online event, but rather it will provide insights to the artist’s spiritualism. 


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