I am driven by curiosity, which is what led me to be an artist and to pursue this path,” says Sarah Maria Scicluna, whose meticulous and observant work has travelled from Valletta, to Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Japan.
“My artistic journey was not necessarily a conventional one,” says the artist, who, although always interested in art and honing her skills, began her academic journey studying the sciences. “Retrospectively, I can see how studying the sciences formed my artistic approach and practice.”
Also a lecturer of fine art at the Malta College of Arts, Science and Technology (MCAST), Sarah Maria has engaged with various forms of creativity for as long as she can remember. “When I was young, I was constantly drawing, painting, sewing and making things out of found materials, and my parents always supported this by providing me with the material needed and books to learn more,” she explains.
“As time went on, even though I was not studying art formally at the time, I kept drawing and reading about art. Eventually, in my late teens, I realised that whatever I would be doing in the future, I wanted art to be present in my life. It was at that point that I took the decision to pursue an education in fine art.”
Following the completion of her degree in Fine Arts at MCAST, Sarah Maria went on to read for a Master’s degree in Digital Arts at the University of the Arts London, Camberwell, in 2015. This led her to marry her preferred medium, silk screen printing, with current, modern practices.
“Most of my work is in silk screen printing, which is a very traditional discipline. However, the process of arriving to the work itself is, very often, digital,” she says. “This allows me to have the freedom which the digital arts allow throughout the design process, and then taking the work back into the traditional realm by harnessing it through the possibilities and restrictions that silk screen printing provides.”
Sarah Maria describes her work as continuously exploring ritual, systems and chance, placing a lot of importance on the process and the spontaneous possibility that it may bring.
“I love exploring formulas, algorithms and other very structured approaches and systems that I would later apply to various ideas, which would allow an element of chance to come through, as the result cannot always be anticipated,” says the artist.
“For me, the process of how the work comes to be is very important and I consider it to be the artwork in itself. What one sees on the wall is simply the result of the process.”
So was the case for her latest exhibition, held in October in Valletta, called CUBE: Manipulations. For this body of work, her starting point was the form of the cube. “I was interested in how this form can be manipulated and deconstructed to create new forms. I was also interested in exploring the imaginary space that these newly manipulated forms occupy, and how they can exist in a made-up space, which is the 2D paper.”
Indeed, the process of translating those ideas from mind to matter was laborious, and Sarah Maria admits that the initial process was a long one. “It started out from a series of sketches, which were later developed into the works that were exhibited.
Once I was happy with a design, I prepped it in a manner that would make it feasible to be screen printed,” she explains. “From there on, the process is purely technical; I print the film, coat the screen, expose the screen and print.”
While she admits that the design part is always the hardest, the technical one tends to be the trickiest, “as I am always pushing the limits of what silk screen printing can do. For CUBE: Manipulations, 11 works were featured, all as an edition of four. If I had to choose favourites, I am very fond of the prints CUBE(S) and Aligned, although I’m finding myself having new favourites every couple of weeks!”
In 2019, Sarah Maria’s work travelled beyond Malta’s shores to Bosnia and Herzegovina, to the town of Prijedor, which served as the very source of inspiration for her solo exhibition. The artist explains that the project started from a couple of visits to Prijedor, where her imagination was captured by its architectural style, which, to her, “is unlike anything I could compare to.”
“While there, I was going for long walks around the town and documenting everything, with the idea that eventually, I’ll develop these into works. A couple of months later, I received an invitation from the art museum in Prijedor to hold a solo exhibition there,” says Sarah Maria. “At that point, I knew I wanted to make works based on my sightings of architecture from my walks around the town.”
Using geometric shapes and contrasting colours, the artist recreated the scenes she observed, capturing the dynamic nature of Prijedor’s buildings. “I derived forms from the existing architecture, building my own compositions based on the photos I took, and constructing my own geometric landscapes.”
This feature was first carried in the December edition of the Commercial Courier