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Re-Drawing Perspective

Joanna Delia speaks to artist Matthew Attard about his career and his current artistic practice.

Joanna Delia speaks to artist Matthew Attard about his career and his current artistic practice.

Art is subjective they say. Truth is relative. Perception, perspective, privilege and point of view are things that skew each person’s version of reality, each human’s idea of what constitutes the truth.

I first met Matthew Attard in 2011 when he had been awarded a one-year art residency at Forte Marghera by Eventi Arte Venezia. It was one of those instances when you enter a room with Italian and French acquaintances and randomly bump into a fellow-Maltese. I was immediately enthralled by his work, research and dedication.

The first time I was fortunate enough to see work by Matthew Attard, he was playing with theidea of perspective mixed in with his love and fascination for drawing. I knew immediately this was an artist to watch out for. His wire sculptures formed poignant figures, decipherable only when one views them from a single position. From any other viewpoint the sculpture presents what can be thought of as fragmented abstract forms, and therefore although the work is static, it encourages physical engagement by the viewer while they walk around looking for meaning and revelation. ‘A visual discovery’ as Matthew describes it. The medium worked, and through several exhibitions his subjects were varied, powerful and socially relevant in our time.

In Venice, he began developing his ongoing practice, which predominantly involves a lot of research; more recently including adapting devices such as an eye-tracker in an artistic context. He is interested in what we would produce if we could draw with our eyes, using pupil movement as a drawing practice. In a sense, this seems to me to be the reverse of his previous medium, taking visual perspective to a whole new level.

Matthew Attard graduated with a Master of Arts degree from the Department of Digital Arts at the University of Malta in 2018. He has since exhibited in Venice, London, Valletta, Beijing and Los Angeles. In 2018, he was awarded the Under 30 prize at ArteFiera, Bologna. In 2019, he was part of the exhibition Ten Artists to Watch at the Los Angeles Centre for Digital Arts.

Last year he participated in two collective shows at Galleria Michela Rizzo; Soglie e limiti,curated by Elena Forin and Dinamogrammi, curated by Viana Conti. Attard was also presentat the Artissima Art Fair project Telephone, at Vienna Contemporary 2019 and Art Verona2019. Matthew also produced the solo project room, Equivocality, in March, and wasnamed finalist in the Rotary Art Prize for artists under 40 in Italy.

He is a current practice-based PhD student at the Edinburgh College of Arts, supported by theMalta Arts Scholarship scheme.

JD: What is art for you?

MA: I see art as a practice which attempts to visually and conceptually interpret the world around us. I like to see it as something which is ‘re-learnt’ or ‘un-learnt’ by every generation. At the same time, we can (and should) never reach a conclusive definition of art, as otherwise there would be little point in making it anymore.

JD: With your wire drawing series, you produced works related to sex – perhaps you want to depict female pleasure… and then the washed-up dead asylum seekers… powerful. Is thatsomething you wanted to talk about through your art?

MA: The works related to sex (or our body and its pose/attitude)and the migrants kind of come from the ‘same’ project, i.e. I was interested in appropriating images of ‘us’ from the extensive visual culture around us. You might be reading an article about immigration, next to which your Instagram window is open, and from your physical window you can see a lingerie ad, and so on… Our attention and knowledge changes continuously and our perception of the world (which is also loaded with differences from one another) is shaped upthrough thousands of images we are faced with in our daily routine among many other factors(perhaps also unknowingly).

So, these works were not trying to portray a literal meaning – like female pleasure among other things (orany othersimilarnarrative) – I think that would berisky. This is why theyareimages distributed in space, linear sculptures. The viewer is able to move around them and activate a personal perception…

They are ‘flirting’ with the audience’s own views rather than exhibiting a statement.It is also important for me that these installations remain in the ‘realm of drawing’, alluding to something meaningful but inconclusive (and worthy of possibilities, viewpoints and options).

And, yes, the immigrants’ images are of course powerful, and I find it even more meaningful when viewers are looking at the bodies and slowly build up to a realisation of what they actually looking at – because of course all of these images are de-contextualized from their environment.

This appropriation of images and perceptive play, or deceit, also led me to superimposed drawings, such as in the Equivocality show, and the images presented in the Dinamogrammi exhibition.

JD: What about your work with eye tracking? Why did you first decide to start your research in this area?

MA: The eye-tracking started during the Masters by Research that I read for at the Digital Arts Department in Malta. John Berger describes drawing as ‘an autobiographical record of one’s discovery of an event – seen, remembered – or imagined’. I agree with this statement, but I also acknowledge that I live in a different world from Berger, and I am interested in seeing how drawing (and its meaning) can be re-evaluated in my contemporary times.

I wanted to explore how we would record this mental imagery if the artist’s hand was taken away.

What I am doing in my PhD is to continue from that point. I am looking at the practice with amore in-depth approach, starting from the hand, and will eventually work on the body and participatory works.

JD: What upcoming exhibitions do you have planned?

MA: At the moment I am working on some new material as a result of my ongoing PhD, and my next show should take place in July, hosted by Valletta Contemporary.

JD: Do you feel the Maltese environment is receptive to your art?

MA: I think so, yes.

Although this is a bit difficult for me to understand, because I haven’t exhibited much (yet) in Malta. Also, receptive can mean many things, and most of all, irrespective of how the work is received, I would still work on it (as should anybody else). It is not just a matter of spectacle – the motivation of working comes from somewhere else. Therefore, confrontation and critical dialogues are crucial for a meaningful environment.

JD: How have things changed over the years?

MA: The biggest change comes from the fact that the local artistic platforms can travel for art-related purposes more frequently than in the past. This is positively changing our critical response to both art production and its acknowledgement.

More information about Matthew Attard’s work can be found on or

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