Japanese culture was the main source of inspiration for a recently installed sculpture in one of Valletta’s foremost restaurants AKI, by internationally-renowned artist, Austin Camilleri. This private commission that is visible to the general public from Strait Street as well as from St Lucy Street in Valletta, is 4.8m wide and weighs approximately 110kg.
Camilleri was commissioned to produce an art work that would complement the restaurant and lounge bar’s concept that thrives on a contemporary take on Japanese dishes accompanied by signature cocktails. The project was curated and overseen by Dr Charlene Vella.
The sculpture is innovative and unique in the nature of the commission in the local art scene, yet it is also entrenched in Camilleri’s past art.
The man-made sculpture was inspired by and embraces Japanese culture and Zen Buddhism, as well as a return to nature – particularly bamboo that is found all over Japan, and the bonsai tree tradition which symbolises harmony – roots, and ikebana the Japanese art of arranging flowers that is governed by minimalist design. The word Aki in Japanese refers to harvesting and autumn, but also means shining and bright, yet AKI in this restaurant’s case is a derivation from the Japanese word ‘Akitsu’ that means dragonfly.
Austin Camilleri embraced such thoughts and ideas to create the tree branch that revisits some of his past works where he would apply gilding to most art works. Camilleri is here revisiting his Untitled, exhibited in Musee Botanique in Brussels and the 1999 Stones installations of gilded natural stones in 22 crt gold leaf that projected from the sea off the Maltese and Gozitan coast and outside the pre-Renzo Piano City Gate in Valletta. The AKI sculpture is therefore called Gōrudo, which means gold in Japanese.
The sculpture adds to the sophistication of the ambience and is certainly a contemporary art work that deserves recognition.