What we see isn’t necessarily what is, because what is, isn’t necessarily what we see. This is my attempt at seeing the artist, Nigel Baldacchino, from a closer point of view, void of fog, and under somewhat of a spotlight.
Words by Alessia Caruana | Extract taken from July's 2022 Il-Bizzilla Magazine | Read more here
There is a beauty in the blurred line that defines the unknown, not black or white, just gray and blurred, nonetheless here I stand trying to give these blurs some form of definition through my inquisition and Nigel’s own words:
Define the role light plays in your latest work and explain what it lends to your narrative.
I find the borrowed vocabulary we import from the natural world, to make sense of our inner life, to be very telling with regards to how we see ourselves and our place in the world. I find we are culturally programmed quasi-universally to project dichotomies such as light - dark, clear - muddy, noisy – silent, high - low etc. to the way we feel and think.
My work feeds off these parallels and engages with them in a semi-conscious effort to explore and express things about my own human condition that I would find hard to figure out otherwise. Attempts to ‘describe’ something, knowing well from the start will ‘fail’; because all sincere descriptions of our deepest truths as people are ultimately incomplete.
In this context, the shedding of light is a central theme for me, on several levels, also given the medium of photography itself, being a logical vessel for such exploration.
Your subject matter is varied, your choice of medium moreso, what role does photography play in your personal oeuvre of work?
Photography is the first medium I picked up in my late childhood. I would see photographs I wanted to take around me, without knowing why and for what. This is precisely what has always been in it for me - the instantaneous ‘click’ at the base of it all being something that goes so far against my own ruminating general disposition, that it kind of goes full circle and meets me closely on the other side. In a way it feels like the shooting phase of photography enables me to follow my intuition most faithfully, before my thinking gets in the way.
Describe the metaphysical journey that is being presented to us in your own work within the curated confines of this exhibition.
My work in the show is derived from a series entitled ‘Fog’, which is a body of work that attempts to lend presence to the distance between the lens and its subjects. The definition/clarity of something against another is an important way our eyes/mind has of articulating space and distance.
Clarity is not taken as a quantity that can go up and down, but also sideways. There are textures inherent to loss of clarity deriving from the way cameras capture a still image, which profoundly affect their felt presence against their surroundings. For instance, something that is out of focus blurs differently to something that moves faster than the shutter speed. Likewise, objects describing a distance in dense fog blur away differently than those seen through a dirty window. Our minds are trained to catch and discern these differences, but only up to a point - thus creating a poetic language which forms the creative groundwork for the photographs exhibited here.
I instinctively gravitated towards this visual expression of the reality before me as a way of externalising and documenting anxiety, something I lived with most of my life in various shapes and magnitudes. Anxiety flattens everything around me in my mindscape, erasing the sense of depth which would usually enable me to prioritise urgent things to tend to or worry about, from things in the background that should not be affecting me as much. Instead, everything feels equally urgent and suffocatingly close, until it becomes overwhelming. In this sense, I’ve come to think of these photographs as my own way of poetically exorcising this internal phenomenon, while at the same time perversely channelling my curiosity at the aesthetic it renders.
'Those yes - these eyes - they fade.' what does this title mean in the context of this exhibition as well as your own work?
The title was actually something I had pitched to the curator, and she picked it up. I’ve come to interpret the title personally as an evocation of the emphasis on the looking as opposed to the looked-at – the human, subjective experience of the world – moulded mostly by our projections on it and general dispositions. So, in a sense it is about photography mediating a dialogue between the eyes and the world, instead of the world’s own monolog which we are merely witnessing. A kind of reminder of how much of our experience of the world is directly affected by the qualities of our own looking, and how there’s a ‘clarity’ to that looking that comes and goes with time.
The exhibition ‘those eyes- these eyes- they fade’ benefits from the Project Support Fund by Arts Council Malta and will run between July 12th and August 14th at Valletta Contemporary. This exhibition is supported by Noi Studio, Valletta Vintage, Ambassade de France a Malte, iLab Photo and Saint Paul Valletta.