Ryan Falzon Exhibiting in Berlin

Well-known local artist Ryan Falzon and curator Michael Fenech speak to ARTZ ID about Ryan’s upcoming solo show ‘Fritz ist Amerikanisch’ in Berlin. The exhibition will run at okk/raum29 gallery between October 16 and November 15 and ARTZ ID will be travelling to Germany for the occasion!

Ryan Falzon portrait
Portrait of Ryan Falzon in his studio, photo credit Leo Chircop

Just a few days left for your solo exhibition ‘Fritz ist Amserikanisch’ to open at okk/raum 29 gallery in Berlin. We cannot help but notice the particularly interesting title. Can you tell us more about this and how the idea for the show was developed?

The title originates from the large 2mx2m centre piece painting that will be part of the collection exhibited. Fritz is a very common German name, thus the exhibition title translates to “Fritz is Americanised”. It refers to the complex history connecting West Berlin, USA and the Baader Meinhof group. It leads to discourse on the unification of Berlin and the extent to which the turbulent events were driven and directed by the Americans, keeping in mind the Cold War and the dynamics of power in West Berlin. This painting, finished in 2016, was fueled by the discussions about the subject during my travels to Berlin, as well as an investigation based on the theme of political violence, a strong presence in the ‘Fritz ist Amerikanisch’ series.

Fritz ist Amerikanisch
'Fritz ist Amerikanisch', collage and acrylic on canvas, 2016

Which work will be included in the exhibition? Did you create a new body of work specifically for this show or will we see some existing pieces being exhibited?

The body of work that will be exhibited in Berlin, was exhibited in Malta under the name ‘WE LOST THE WAR’ in January 2017 at Spazju Kreattiv, Valletta. Remembered as the exhibition with the large scale paintings, this work has become more relevant than ever. The paintings were created during a rat race period, with Malta in an economic boom, gearing for the Capital of Culture in 2018, a sense of extravagance roaming the island. Back in 2017, I did receive comments that all the display of violence in the paintings was just misogyny on display and a triumph to the patria, and that the social commentary was all made up tales.
It was during this period that a series of car bombs and execution style murders between hardened criminals ensued, possibly a drug-related turf war. This violenece took a turn with the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia, a murder that lead to the November 2019 protests. All this gave a different interpretation and a more evident rooting to the paintings from when they were first exhibited.
We Lost the War Ryan Falzon
'We Lost the War', acrylic on canvas, 2016

One for the curator: Can you talk us through the curatorial process for this exhibition? Was the process of organising the exhibition and making arrangements more challenging than usual or any different, during this time? If so, how did you work around such challenges?

‘Fritz ist Amerikanisch’ follows on the 2017 setup, for the reason that the Berlin gallery is very similar to the white cube layout at Spazju Kreattiv. There is a slightly smaller selection of works to be exhibited in Berlin. The main challenge here was giving a context to the paintings – the works are very much grounded in a Mediterrenian environment. We had to keep in mind that the audience would be lacking visual references such as the bombastic Baroque motifs, the ‘marċ’ after the religious ceremony, local mancaves and all the flash on display.

For this reason, a video clip with a short feature on Maltese culture from a local point of view along with a short interview, will be on loop in the gallery. Of course COVID-19 created some uncertainty – whether the exhibition was even happening, whether the artist and curator would be able to attend the opening, and shipping logistics. It is a matter of ploughing on and having backup plans. So far it is all going as planned.

Ex Raver now a Cop Ryan Falzon
'Ex Raver Now a Cop', acrylic on canvas, 2016

Would you say that there are noticeable differences between how your work is received by a Berlin audience and how it is received here in Malta?

This is not the first time I will be exhibiting in Berlin, to a very intrigued audience. A Berlin audience finds the clash of cultures highly interesting – the Mediterranean vibes overlaid with a vibrant, urban energetic stance in my works. As previously mentioned, most often a context helps for my work to be perceived in the best manner possible, yet nowadays artists are exhibiting to mainly heterogeneous audiences.

‘WE LOST THE WAR’ and ‘Fritz ist Amerikanisch’ are supported by the Malta Arts Fund, administered by Arts Council Malta. Follow Ryan Falzon and his work on ARTZ ID.

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