This footage was taken and aired by the national TV station – TVM.
Does it surprise you that the number three is associated with Creativity and fresh ideas? In the tradition of Taoism, (originating in China) it was written that: ‘One gives birth to two; two gives birth to three; three gives birth to the ten thousand things. And so one has a sense that the ‘creative’ Three Cities is ready to take off, with the promise of emergence into thousands of fresh creative possibilities for the future. This retrospective is a springboard for art and craftsmanship in a shared community.
This footage was taken and aired by the NET TV station
Curtesy Of Marella Pisani Bencini – Meander
Interview by Deborah Marshall-Warren
For Caroline Said Lawrence, community is in her blood. For her, art and culture challenges and nourishes the ‘alive’ and thriving presence of craftsmanship within the dense local and foreign population who thrive here.This is a creativity that continues to excite and to embrace, an ever increasing local, and foreign mix. L-Ilwien Tat-Tlett Ibliet, ‘Colours of the Three Cities’,aims to bring the Maltese and the foreigners together in a sense of community, a community that supports her drive to create, combined with her love for the south and her wish to empower the Three Cities. When Caroline came to settle on the island she discovered that her grandfather, Guiseppi Said was from Bormla in the Three Cities, and our hosts for this exhibition are foreigners, Annette, and Michael, venturing into the boutique hotel business with 3Cities Auberge. Her wish is to celebrate our sense of oneness and unity within the community, and to acknowledge whole-heartedly our sense of sharing the same space within our restored and golden-stoned bastions. Art and culture keep the pulse beating. Art fuels and fills us all with an awareness, and an education, of the skills that interplay within our cities, and that pay a worthy tribute to our legacy. You are invited to come and celebrate an artistic interpretation that celebrates true and just colours.
Sales of paintings and prints from the exhibition, are donating a contribution to the national charity, the Community Chest Fund.
Caroline Said Lawrence in conversation with Deborah Marshall-Warren:
Why encourage people to collect art?
The social fabric of art helps people to see the details in their surroundings, and to appreciate the natural environment around them. We are getting more and more divorced from nature and more and more isolated. I focus on urban areas. I’m showing people that even in a built up area there is so much beauty and much to be curious and observant about.
So would you say that your art is an uplifting and good for well-being?
The contemporary art world can be inclined to put pressure on artists to make art works that are meaningful, and sometimes ‘dark’, and that say something about the state of society. I dont consciously seek to say anything about society. I want to create uplifting art. I am saying and drawing attention to how I, and you, can see colour and shape for that is one of the most valuable insights. When I first began painting here in Malta, I went to a prestigious gallery and presented a painting of a cafe with people milling around, in a coastal bay. The cafe sign also featured in the narrative. The Gallerist took a view that the ‘collectors’ were not interested in the ordinary goings on of cafe life, and aspired to other subjects. I maintained my belief and continue to put people and ordinary life, and now the ‘ordinary’ lives of people in the Three Cities, into my paintings.
You said just now that your art doesn’t say anything about society and yet it says much about locality and the people.
My art is a record of the time I live in. I resolved to put people in to my paintings and when I do that, there is a sense of street life, and social community. You have in the colour and the shapes, a record of the people who occupy the space and who make it intimate and identifiable – of the cafes where each and all of us can go and be there with ourselves and others, and so inhabit the space. The Grand Harbour is beautiful and offers a majestic landscape, but it is the people who add the charm.
Have you always been an artist in the ‘narrative tradition’?
When I started painting in Bahrain, I became known as a painter of Arabesque interiors. I depicted the rich decor of exotic interiors. There were no people in these narratives, reflecting the Islamic prohibition on figurative representations. However, as essentially I was a figurative painter within a narrative tradition, I always put clues into these serene places of a presence. I’d leave a pair of slippers, or a book, so you knew that someone was absent from the room, during the moments it was painted. I wished to convey that people did occupy the space and that people had created these spaces and had lain the tiles and the carpets. I wished for people to feel that they could personally walk in to these calm reflective spaces and inhabit them.
My collage work is where the strong narrative work really comes into its own. This work is autobiographical in the sense that it depicts themes that particularly resonate with me. Every choice I make – be it the typography or the random writing, is unconsciously done – but most certainly is meaningful on a subconscious level. The faces of my portraits may portray a degree of ‘hardness’ or equally ‘vulnerability’ depending on the mood of the viewer. In this sense the mood of the person in the portrait is ambiguous and alluring. We project our own sense of self in that moment on to the portrait and so we are effectively interacting with the paintings. That is your invitation. The painting is a ‘mirror’ of how you are feeling in the moment the portrait catches your gaze. Your response can be immediate, and so in a sense you are invited to recognise yourself. That excites me because it confirms the commonality of human experience.
How do you anticipate your narrative journey continuing?
Once I had settled here and had consciously resolved to represent the Three Cities and to be an artist devoted to painting the highlights of the south, and Valletta too, I felt nourished by the possibility of opening peoples’ eyes up to the promise that the Three Cities always made and has upheld. That promise was analogous with the ‘phoenix rising from the ashes’. I feel certain that I am in the right place at the right time and am very proud of that. I ventured forth back in 2004 to choose the Three Cities as a venue, and so have exhibited my oeuvre in the former, Casino d’Venezia, Couvre Porte, the Auberge de France, and Macina (Isla). We boldly pioneered the Three Cities as a cultural backdrop aspiring and inspiring others to realise that here within these bastions, lay ‘the jewels within the crown’. We work to consolidate the spaces we share, with a sense of ‘soul’, that has purpose, and which I am proud to be part of. Increasingly more and more children are participating in the creativity that The Three Cities engenders and the parents of those children, are actively encouraging their kids to create. These parents are realising that art is something they wish to invest in with respect to their childrens’ ‘all round’ education as a human being. There is advancement in thought as to the life skills creativity encourages. And again I am proud and happy that parents are realising the power of art and of art classes.