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aesthetics of disappearance

Palazzo de la Salle, Valletta (2018)

Artist: Nick Inguanez
Curator: Elyse Tonna

Supported by: Bortex Fine Tailoring, Maria Rosa Wine Estate, hippo scripts, Ballut Blocks

curatorial note

Today, the narrative of our surrounding landscape is dictated by the reality of the capitalist dimension of the construction industry, catalysing fragments of neglected heritage in ruin, encroached landscapes and over-development. Places which once seemed familiar are becoming unrecognisable.


In ‘The Aesthetics of Disappearance’, Nick Inguanez presents a series of ‘figurative landscapes’, experimenting with a hybrid combining figurative poses with contemporary scenes to represent a paradoxical transience of the present superimposed on the historical value of the past.


Referencing Paul Virilio’s text ‘The Aesthetics of Disappearance’, for the picnoleptic (from the Greek, picnos: ‘frequent’), ‘nothing really has happened, the missing time never existed.’ This can be paralleled to the constant raping of the landscape and tearing down of architectural heritage which will ultimately become part of the story of our past. In this manner, the artist is presenting his artworks as documents whose intention is to record instances from the ongoing process of change which is causing the gradual disappearance of local architectural heritage and landscapes. In a way, the artist is reconstituting Virilio’s theory of time in which the relation between past and present is one of coexistence rather than succession.


‘I’m trying to see if it’s possible to hold onto that moment of perception, or have several moments coexist... Like looking at a memory’. 

(Jenny Saville –artist)


To the artist, each site seems to breathe in the human qualities which give it a character of its own. And it is this relationship between the landscape/ the built and unbuilt and the human figure, which he is interested in conveying. The figures are presented naked and bare- crude and raw fragments of human beings which exert a muscular bodily tension and echo the buildings stripped from their former glory, exposing them in their most vulnerable state. A common sense of helplessness ties them together and envelopes them in the heavy silence which exudes out to the onlooker. By inviting curiosity and introspection from the viewer, the artist conveys a political overarching theme in a personal way- as a poetic metaphor of a collective subconscious, within memory. Furthermore, in painting the human body, Inguanez reflects the mutability of human behavior itself. A new dialogue is born based on the understanding of architecture’s symbolism and spirit inherent in the self’s erotic nature, even in the decay of the ruin which heightens our sense of existence. 


Furthermore, the ‘unfinished aesthetic’ employed throughout all the pieces, perhaps more prominent in some paintings than in others, accentuates the underlying notion of time and offers a debatable point of engagement to the public vis-à-vis the potential and role of heritage in the future. How shall the narrative continue? This is an essential part of the exhibition outcome especially in educating the public and key stakeholders, whilst resonating a general sensitivity for urban & architectural integrity in our built environment. 

photos by Luca Tufigno

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