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Can art institutions help?

Updated: Jan 17, 2019

A light interview about lamentations and possible improvements that Maltese artists can benefit from local institutions and beyond... Article published on 05/01/2019 in

In the second part of our conversations with Maltese artists, we’re speaking to Henry Falzon, a self-taught artist that believes that Malta’s artisan community needs more help and support to promote themselves and their passion.

Falzon explains that there really isn’t an organisation that actually supports artists in all the fundamental aspects beyond the actual artistic process.

After putting pen to paper, stylus to screen or brush to canvas, there is the process of how to expose it, to sell it, to market it, to the community and around the world.

‘It’s the most difficult thing I’ve ever attempted’

Falzon has been producing and publishing his own work since the 1990s from photography and fine art, to his recent endeavours in landscape narrative painting.

He explains that his style draws on Alfred Hitchcock where what looks like a normal picture has ‘more than meets the eye’.  It’s all about generating an emotion in the viewer.

Painting is very much a hobby for Falzon, something to do for fun outside of his normal profession as an engineer.  When asked about whether he’d consider taking it full time, he replies that, ‘art is painful… there are so many stories of impoverished artists’.

Instead, his focus is on slow and gradual growth and the knowledge that you have to do many things rights from the beginning of your career.

‘It’s the most difficult thing I’ve ever attempted. I’ve done a lot of things in my life and by far art is the most difficult. It’s not defined, there’s no yardstick, there’s no established path. I’m totally self-taught, there’s no institution to guide you. To each his own and most artists in Malta are.’

I’m yet to be convinced

Arts Council Malta takes the responsibility of creating and managing a range of activities including the coordination of art events and galleries across the Maltese Islands. It is also there to foster and help the artistic scene.

For Falzon, the idea of the council helping him establish himself is very welcome, but for now he says he is, ‘yet to be convinced that they can really materialise the help.’

When it comes to aspects like Brand Building, building a website or networking, you are better off doing it independently.

‘You have to figure it out or hire someone to help you professionally to push your project out there rather than expecting some government body to do it for you,’ he explains.

Jeni Caruana, a fellow artist who has been producing art full time for the last 20 years, says that she feels the organisation actually focuses more on the young rather than the old.

She explains that the council tends to support younger painters more readily than the older generation and provides them with funding to develop their passion.

Speaking to a representative of Arts Council Malta, it is understood that the organisation works mostly with the AGENZIJA ZGHAZAGH, the Maltese youth organisation, providing young artists with mentoring and one year funds to support their training.

At the same time, the majority of their funding allocations are given towards artists submitting projects and requests for training courses, portfolio help and to attend networking events.

The representative also explained that an advisory service is also on hand to provide artists with information on Tax and Social Security issues.

Dreaming realistically

Much like his approach to his success, when asked about his views of an entirely new body to support artists, Falzon dreams realistically.

For such an organisation to exist, ‘it needs to be really dynamic, be on its tip-toes to keep up with how things are evolving.’, he explains.

If it provides real support to get your name out there, he’s prepared to pay for it.

‘Even if there is a private body, even if you have to pay for it, pay for a website build, even if it’s international.  Even if you pay or you get a grant or sponsorship to access that private institution that can give you real help’

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