In Conversation With Mario Cassar

A new series of work by artist Mario Cassar is currently on show at DESKO until May 19th in his 13th solo exhibition titled ‘Sacred Rubbings’. ARTZ ID reached out to Mario to speak about the artistic process that led to the creation of the new body of work and find out what to expect from him in the near future.

Untitled XXI", 2021 from the S A C R E D R U B B I N G S series Ink and graphite on paper 150cm x 150cm

We love that your work explores layering of various meanings, do you have specific themes that you get the most information from? 

My work mainly draws on my reflections about my immediate environment, the world at large and the role of humanity in the cosmos. Since the start of my practice back at the end of the 1990s I have engaged with various themes ranging from gender, politics, mortality, spirituality and the role of the viewer, to mention a few. The result was an ongoing research that manifested itself through several collections of work in various media. These include drawing, painting, sculpture, performance, video and photography. This research is still ongoing. My artistic life also draws on my role as a visual art educator at post-secondary and tertiary level.  The latter endlessly informs my studio practice and pollinates it through students’ experiences and artistic research. I truly think that my students are key “collaborators” in my research.

"Untitled XVI", 2021 Mario Cassar from the S A C R E D R U B B I N G S series Ink and graphite on paper 42cm x 60cm

What is the main inspiration behind this exhibition? 

What triggered this particular collection was a gravestone in a Gozitan cemetery that caught my eye. Its inscription became the first of a series of “playgrounds” where I did several onsite rubbings and drawings. This was followed by similar interventions in various sites in Malta, the French capital and in the Middle East where I represented the our country in a cultural diplomacy programme under the auspices of the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs and Malta’s representative office in Ramallah. Some venues I have used for my artistic research included important mosques, the Wailing Wall and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre .These sites are rich in historical content and in spiritual relevance. While in the suburbs of Paris, my research concentrated on a search for the city’s soul, nowadays manifesting itself in urban and highly cosmopolitan surroundings that distantly resonate the ancient role Paris had in medieval times as a religious centre. Concrete buildings and underground carparks stand next to universal symbols like Notre Dame and St. Chapelle.  Furthermore in the body of work I’m currently exhibiting at Desko Valletta, I have roped in the thoughts and ideas of my favourite philosopher Michel Foucault. The French 20th century thinker intrigues me for the parallelism he draws between institutions including mental hospitals, schools, factories and prisons. His studies about power and its ramifications in sexuality are also unparalleled. 

Your work has been exhibited far and wide, why is this series different from the rest? 

This is my thirteenth solo exhibition. My work is in constant evolution and my various collections show a continuous search for expression and a better understanding of the creative act. Artistic research is dynamic and knows no boundaries be it technical or stylistic. My search is basically a conceptual one and while it entails a degree of aesthetic ramifications, it is not purely dictated by it. This has always been my hallmark. Experimentation with alternative media and artistic forms has characterized my art from the beginning of my practice some 25 years ago. Hopefully I will be able to continue this path for the years to come.  

Any future projects or aspirations?

Currently I am working on various projects including some interesting developments of “Sacred Rubbings” and some new concepts I am presenting in Germany in 2023. I am also finalizing some ongoing projects including “feelHome”, based on Maltese and Palestinian children’s perspectives and “Riħ id-Deheb”, a project involving the creation of a wunderkammer at my family home in Żebbuġ Gozo. I consider this project to be my gesamtkunstwerk, in that it is aimed at presenting to the public and to the future generations all the aspects of art and culture I love most. 

Don’t miss out on Mario Cassar’s ongoing solo exhibition ‘Sacred Rubbings’, currently on show at DESKO, Valletta. Get more information about the event here. And don’t forget to follow and connect with Mario Cassar through his ARTZ ID profile.

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