An excerpt from the introduction to the Exhibition Catalogue by Dr Vincent Briffa
Reckoning the Forces
You cannot help but learn more as you take the world into your hands. Take it up reverently, for it’s an old piece of clay, with millions of thumbprints on it.
Choosing clay as the main medium for creative expression carries with it a serious responsibility. For clay is not only the very matter of one of the four elements of our abiding environment (earth), but also, in order for the ceramist’s practice to materialise, one is lured into a process which inevitably has to embrace the other three elements (fire, air and water). Hegel’s observation that, “through the four elements we have the elevation of sensuous ideas into thought” perhaps could not be better experienced than in the process of creation of ceramic art.
With George Muscat, such sensuous ideas start with the medium itself – clay – earth’s most primal element and the most humble of materials; a medium which after tens of thousands of years of use, particularly in the culinary arts and in the construction of towns and villages amongst numerous other uses, continues to play a vital role in our day-to-day through its application in space programmes, bio-technology, plumbing, sanitation and many more. This engagement with clay follows a myriad of pathways that take the artist into a landscape of varying possibilities which reference a broad spectrum of concerns rooted in modern and contemporary culture. From the way the artist stretches, pinches, moulds and forms the clay to the way he intervenes during the colouring, firing and curing stages, the work pushes the boundaries of form and function, language and iconography, expanse and space. It is through such a wide variety of concerns that Muscat manages to avoid cursory notions of style, making his outcomes highly distinctive and idiosyncratic, well respected locally within the burgeoning ceramic art milieu.
Vince Briffa is a transmedia artist and researcher with works shown in major international museums and galleries, including the 48th Venice Biennale in 1999. His is Head of Department of Digital Arts at the University of Malta.