Exhibition of contemporary tapestries opens at Malta Society of Arts

The Malta Society of Arts (MSA) is set to host an intimate art exhibition titled Through The Eye Of The Needle featuring a collection of tapestries by talented young artist Stefan Spiteri. Running from February 8 to 29 at the MSA in Valletta, the textile works will be displayed on timber stands reminiscent of weavers’ looms designed by Lyanne Mifsud, while a captivating sound installation by Chris Galea, composed from recordings taken during the tapestries’ production process, will add another layer to the sensory experience.

Delving into the concept behind the exhibition, Spiteri explains that in a deliberate departure from the conventional, the exhibition adopts a stripped-down format, featuring only a select few artworks per room. “The works on show are conceived from past paintings that have been cut, torn apart and reassembled as new works through a very time-consuming process of stitching”, he says. “They are made of patchwork and embroidery, drawing inspiration from traditional festa decorations known as ‘pavaljuni’. By incorporating these techniques, the exhibition provides a contemporary context for the exploration of indigenous techniques,” he adds with enthusiasm.

A poignant highlight of the exhibition is the inclusion of works by the artist’s mother, whose contributions, though not that of a professional artist, form the core of the project. This transformative collaboration seeks to recognise and honour her overlooked artistic talent from the 1960s and 1970s in Malta, adding a deeply personal and meaningful layer to the showcase.

Exhibition curator Andrew Borg Wirth describes Spiteri’s works as “a woven reconciliation not only with his personal context and story, but also the vernacular artworks used to dress streets in praise of saints in Malta. The jute artwork which his mother Speranza created at the tender age of 18 holds considerable value for this body of work. The maternal artworks which he references as the starting point of this project are in direct dialogue with the flatly decorated banners hung in streets for local village feasts, the ‘pavaljuni’. Despite the highly contrasting needlework used in each, the common ground seems to have birthed something conceptually and technically substantial within Stefan’s practice.”

The exhibition’s name, Through The Eye Of The Needle derives from the timeless biblical quote “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!”. While not tied to any specific faith, the metaphor of the camel passing through the eye of a needle serves as a powerful symbol for the ecological and social challenges facing our world today. In the face of environmental devastation and societal rifts, the needle takes on the role of an activist, symbolically stitching together the threads of our existence. This metaphor goes beyond the utilitarian function of the needle, embracing it as a powerful representation of art and the artist’s ability to convey profound messages about our world.

As Spiteri himself puts it: “In a world desperate for healing, we must hold tightly onto the thread that binds us to the place that birthed and nurtured us. This thread becomes our shelter, our clothing, our safety net and ultimately, a symbol of empathy and resilience and a guide for the future. The needle has a potential for emotional restoration, it is used to repair damage. The needle repairs, forgives, and heals; and sewing is perceived as an act of empathy, forgiveness, reconciliation, and a profound symbol of resilience, hope, and reconnection.”

Arch. Adrian Mamo, President of the Malta Society of Arts, anticipates a profound impact on visitors. “I am confident that Stefan’s original tapestries will evoke contemplation and emotion, encouraging a deeper connection with each piece. I urge attendees not to miss the opportunity to experience these thought-provoking works firsthand,” he says.

Through The Eye Of The Needle by Stefan Spiteri is open at the Art Galleries of the Malta Society of Arts, Palazzo de La Salle, 219, Republic Street, Valletta from 8 to 29 February 2024, Monday to Friday 9am to 7pm, and Saturdays 9am to 1pm. Entrance is free. For more details about the exhibition please visit www.artsmalta.org/events or www.facebook.com/maltasocietyofarts.


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