Getting to know emerging artist Sheldon Saliba

An emerging, Maltese artist whose works are reaching their full potential, is Sheldon Saliba. With themes concerning an ever-changing landscape, Saliba shifts our focus between factors; what was once past and what is now present, and boldly combines the two through the built environment. At the beginning of the month, Shifting Contexts II, a collaborative practice at Spazju Kreattiv, opened its doors to the public. Saliba’s sculptural installation Reconstructed Balustrades responds appropriately to the desired theme of ‘CHANGE’. This work can be viewed until the beginning of July. The interview questions below, tell us more about the artist, his works, and his future plans within the local art scene. 

KONKOS (2022)
Photo Credits: Sheldon Saliba

As an emerging visual artist, what inspires you to create art?

I am very influenced by the objects that surround me, especially the changing landscapes, both rural and urban. My work tends to reflect a reaction to both and always seems to revolve around contrasts between the past and present. Collecting is something which I am quite fond of, in fact I have several objects which form part of my collection – something which helps me find inspiration. I would say that one of the most rewarding aspects of art making is the community of people one meets along the way and the feeling of being a part of something larger.

What is your preferred medium and why?

Installation and sculpture are my two preferred mediums which I tend to always gravitate towards, within which I tend to incorporate found objects, creating a direct link with the subject matter which is being commented on and presenting something which the viewers are familiar to – these give me the opportunity to create an experience, presenting large scale works which the viewer can feel immersed in. Apart from this, photography is another medium which I use when not working on installation or sculpture. In the same approach to found objects, I consider photography as a medium to ‘collect’ found scenes or moments in time.

Reconstructed Balustrades (2022)
Photo Credits: Elisa Von Brockdorff

Reconstructed Balustrades is a recent work exhibited as part of a collaborative project at Spazju Kreattiv. What is the central theme?

Reconstructed Balustrades is a work which comments on the rapidly changing built environment through an iconic architectural element which is most often taken for granted or not even noticed – the baluster. I do so by presenting five found eroded limestone balusters which are contrasted by five concrete balusters which are roughly cast. All of these are presented as if they are archaeological artefacts to elevate their status beyond neglected architectural elements. I have come to look at the ‘baluster’ as a good measure of the transition from past to present, be it from modern replacements in domestic use as well as their removal from public squares and garden, as the case for the Paola Square.

Have you taken part in other exhibits?

Recently I was also part of Transitions, an exhibition at the Malta School of Art as part of Idearti – Skultura, a collaborative process-based project between Aġenzija Żgħażagħ and Mikiel Anton Vassalli College – Malta School of Art, in which I exhibited an interactive sculptural installationKONKOS, which again commented on the changing landscapes. I presented three large-scale topographical maps of Valletta, a part of Sliema and Manoel Island, upon which a substantial number of concrete blocks where presented which the viewer was invited to play with and transform. This was my first experience with interactive art and was quite rewarding experience as the work transformed considerably over the exhibition period.

Tiles of Occupation (2020)
Photo Credits: Sarah Pisani

What is the purpose of your work and how would you like others to experience it?

Most often I aim to create work which comments on issues and changes that we are experiencing locally, with the aim of confronting people with these topics. I am also interested in public art as well, as it allows me to communicate with an audience which otherwise would not have come to see the work in the gallery, as I did in Tiles of Occupation. I strongly believe that art should not only focus on beauty but should also instigate thoughts in the viewers, and that is something I attempt in each of my works.

What’s next in plan for Sheldon Saliba?

At the moment, I am collaborating with the Gabriel Caruana Foundation on some upcoming projects.

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