Interview with Nik Keter about her first solo exhibition

 ‘In the name of the Mother…and of the Daughter… ’ is your debut solo exhibition. Can you tell us about the thinking, making and preparation processes that led to the body of work that is currently being exhibited?

This exhibition started about a year ago; I had already began experimenting with a brighter palette and more natural themes; starting off with still lives of fruit and vegetables, as quarantine meant that I was stuck indoors with little to do other than be aware of the nature around me, within my garden as well as the rural areas around Mqabba. My mental health was improving during this period of rest too, and so without much thought, I began to gravitate towards less macabre subjects. I began a spiritual practice, which I still uphold, and felt immediately called towards Mary; who had played a large role within my childhood – where at the age of nine I would go visit a chapel dedicated to Our Lady of Sorrows daily, praying to take her pain away, and finding companionship in her in times of great stress and anxiety for me, as I had just switched schools and was passing through a rough patch.

Nike Keter, Photo Credits to Fabrizio Vella

This exhibition is very much ‘inspired’ in almost a surrealist way – the philosophical themes and symbolism, although backed up by my own research into the subjects, arise from my spiritual practice: the visions and imagery that arose during my daily meditation and mantra are translated into the physical paintings presented.As mentioned before, the exhibition itself took a year to finish, during which I went on long walks and scoured the area during the seasons to produce references and natural elements that are apparent in the works themselves, in order to be authentic to the Maltese experience of the seasons; which are the transformations of Mother Earth around us. Therefore there are five seasons being exhibited; the ‘traditional’ four (Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter), and then Rain – a period which is present in early September where it pours and everywhere floods. These I was inspired to connect to Mary’s transformations based off different times during her lifespan: as Maiden, Mother, Queen, Crone and Dormant. At the time the idea was vague, but the more I worked, the more was revealed.

Photo Credits to Fabrizio Vella

Through your pieces you make various references to the ‘Mother’, drawing a parallel between the seasonal transformation of Mother Earth and the archetypal transformation of the Mother, using religious iconography and poetry. Would you say that your own mother was a great inspiration for these works you’ve created? And if so, how?

I’ve always struggled with anxiety, since I was very young. My way of coping was always to run behind my mother and clutch at her legs, peering at the object of fear from behind her – she was a sanctuary which I could run to again and again. Obviously as we get older this kind of attachment dissipates, however anxiety remained a constant burden upon me. The Mother; in her archetypal form, which is then reflected in countless names and facets, deals with this same need to feel protected and cared for, a need which is essential to navigating through life properly. Some people have told me that every figure inside the exhibition has some resemblance to my physical mother…this was unintentional, however there is some truth to the idea that unconsciously I was influenced by my mother’s appearance and therefore recreated her in paint.

Nike Keter’s work at il-Kamra ta’ Fuq ,Photo Credits to Fabrizio Vella

How does this exhibition reflect your artistic style?

As a self-taught artist, it reflects the inspiration from within rather than that inspiration that comes from outside oneself; it would be arrogant to say that I have not allowed inspiration to arise from what is outside, however I try to turn my gaze inwards to the best of my ability. Thus, the paintings are a blend of the natural and the surreal, the human and the Divine, colourful yet solemn and Feminine with a capital F. It is an exhibition that reflects joy, even when dealing with imagery that may be considered melancholy; such as the symbols of Id-Duluri.

Photo Credits Fabrizio Vella

What should the viewer expect to see?

A shock of vibrant colour and natural elements; a progression of the formed emerging from the unformed…beautiful faces and forms that can be understood on many levels, rife with symbolism and significance. A call to see that Mother Nature IS alive, bursting at the seams with energy. A renewed understanding of Mary; not as merely a messenger or mediator, but as a source of Divine Feminine power, the key to living in tune with the Earth around us and connecting with our own human nature.

Follow Nik Keter’s work on ARTZ ID. The exhibition ‘In the Name of the Mother…and of the Daughter’ runs until September 14 at Il-Kamra ta’ Fuq.

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