Meeting artist Debbie Caruana Dingli… over a coffee

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One of Malta’s most talented artists DEBBIE CARUANA DINGLI returns with a solo exhibition of new works this coming April themed ‘Nothing Really Matters”. The exhibition at Spazju Kreattiv in Valletta, curated by the equally talented Giulia Privitelli, will consist of 27 new works and will be open for the public between the 16th April and the 23rd of May.

What triggered this exhibition? How long has it been since the last show? 

My last exhibition was a collection of rather ugly self-portraits after a bad accident in 2016. 

The thought behind this one came from one line in the newspaper. I was reading about a hit-and-run arraignment in court. It mentioned that the mother of the accused was sobbing at the back of the courtroom. My world stopped. ‘Of course she was sobbing’ I thought.

Photo – Eve Cocks

These latest works seem to betray a sense of resignation. Tell us about the general mood of the whole collection. What has influenced most of these new works ?

So I kept thinking of this mother and all other mothers whose sons or daughters ended up on the wrong side of the law. I realised that despite the Hell that they are most probably going through, they are never given a thought.

As a mother myself, it felt even more profound. So I let the subject mull around in my head. I got all these questions and thoughts. As usual, I would doodle them. A doodle is always the first step to a painting.

What are you telling us with this exhibition?

I guess I am looking at a sector of society that is very much there but overlooked. We do not think of them as we get on with our day. Mothers of criminals are just one sector. There must be many more.

Photos – Joseph P. Borg

Art is usually an extension of the artist. Do you put anything from your personal life in your works? To what extent?

Subconsciously so. Probably in most of them. They are all imaginative and there is absolutely no boundary to imagination. I am at liberty to throw whatever I like into my paintings. It would not be the same if I were documenting real life cases. Maybe that is why I enjoy fiction so much.

We’re in the midst of a pandemic so attending exhibitions has been quite a challenge. So why should artists keep exhibiting?

Giulia and I are planning on this exhibition going online if the worst comes to the worst. Everything is a challenge. Packing it up, or postponing was never on the cards.

How effective is art today to make social / political messages?

Extremely so. I always felt that an artist can make a statement that may filter through to a viewer and remain with him much more than an article in the paper or online. In a way, it may even be considered to be our duty to use our platform in this way.

Could you mention any artists who you are currently following or that are in some way inspiring you?

I do not really follow other artists for inspiration. I just paint the whirlwind of thoughts and nonsense going around in my head. These thoughts automatically come out as cartoon doodles. Having said that, some of these paintings are charcoal drawings on an abstract background. I had seen some Jenny Saville paintings in an ‘office exhibition’ in Athens where she used this technique. I could not wait to try it. ‘Madonna xi Ġralna!’ is one of them.

Do you go through periods when you cannot paint? How do you cope with those times?

The only two times I did not paint were during my pregnancies, where like Kate Middleton, I was too occupied vomiting my way through the day. As soon as each son was born, three of them, I happily got back to it. The other time was after my accident where I was too bashed up to paint. But I realised that it was possible to paint with my left hand. Not draw, or write, but paint, yes.

What are you mostly grateful for in life?

To look at all the people that are so important to me and see that they are okay. And of course, for my dogs as well.

Your favourite Colour

Red

Spring or Autumn?

Spring

Ricotta or Spinaci?

Ricotta

The aspect you like most about Malta?

Our proximity to the sea.

Your favourite spot

Għajn Tuffieħa

How do you like your coffee?

Milky

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