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Exhibition: REGNVM

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Monday, 10 March 2014

Exhibition: REGNVM

A couple of weeks ago I was lucky to attend the opening of photographer Kris Micallef's exhibition and book launch REGNVM at Blitz in Valletta.  I'll be honest with you - this was more of a social event as, with all the people attending, and my being vertically challenged I only got glimpses of the artworks on display.  But those tiny glimpses were enough to make me want to see more.

So I headed back to the exhibition last weekend, bright and early to allow myself the time to be engulfed in beauty of these images.  Kris Micallef is a Maltese photographer, best known for his work in fashion editorials and campaigns. His architectural background presents itself in an incredible sensitivity in choreographing form, focus and light through his landscapes and portraits.

Walking around Blitz, taking my time in front of every photograph, I could feel this sensitivity.  All images are taken underwater and the fluidity of the medium surrounding the model-dancers inundates the viewer in an otherworldly manner.  Entering REGNVM, you are entering another world - a world with a sometimes blurry vision of delicately shaped bodies, but who emit strength through their eyes and sculpted features. The three elements - the bodies (solid), the sea (liquid) and the air (gas) - are fused together by the artist in these images which are at times serene and at times disconcerting.

My favourite piece, by far, is one where a male figure is suspended in mid-descent into the water. I loved how Kris captured that fraction of a second before the body was fully submerged - that feeling of belonging to two spaces, above and under water; that sense of 'letting go' which you get when you're diving / jumping into the sea or even just easing yourself into a bath. You feel like you're letting yourself go into a peaceful space, and yet, there is always an element of 'unknown' which somewhat rattles you.

Most of the works are in monochrome, which I felt gave the water a mercurial feel making it more tangible; however, I must confess that my favourites where those images captured in colour, where the tonalities of the sea were captured in their deepest blues.

I asked Kris a couple of questions to put this exhibition into some more perspective:

FS6: What came first: the diving skills or the photo shoot/book inspiration? 
KM: I have always been fascinated by underwater portraiture. The idea for REGNVM came before I was equipped to actually work on it. After buying the necessary equipment I decided to do a scuba diving course. It was a fantastic experience which opened a lot of new opportunities. In the end I opted not to use scuba and free dive instead - I found it to be much easier for what I had in mind. The idea of a story book came along while working on the project. I was happy that the story I had in mind was coming out through the photos but we thought that it would be a great idea to capture the series of photographs in one book and include a short story woven around the pictures. This is where Adrian Mamo and I decided to get in touch with creative writer Stanley Borg and together worked on my first publication - REGNVM.

FS6: You chose a crowd funding platform for this project. How did the Maltese public react to it? And more broadly, how easy / difficult was it to reach your targets? 
KM: I decided to opt for crowd funding as one of my main funding sources for the REGNVM exhibition and publication. I had already heard about crowd funding platforms such as indiegogo and kickstarter and I had also contributed to a few artists' campaigns. I thought that this would be a great opportunity and also a great risk however the crowd funding campaign was received with great reactions and infact I reached more than my target of EUR5,000. ( Many people had not heard of crowd funding before and I think that now the local scene is more aware of other alternatives that can help them make their projects happen. It has helped me make one of my dreams come true - my first exhibition in Malta and my very first publication! I'm very happy with the support I've had and with the feedback I've received since the exhibition has been launched. My crowd funding campaign was supported by contributors from Malta, South Africa, Canada, Russia, Belgium, Holland, Uk, Germany, Brazil, Czech Republic,Gibraltar, Italy! REGNVM is also supported by Malta Arts Fund, Lux-It Lighting, Maxmotion, thesmartskinclinic, Smugglers, Selkies, MJK Transport.

All the prints on display are for sale, so you can make the REGNVM world part of your own.  There's also the book, with even more images and a set of postcards, all available from Blitz. The exhibition is open until 20th March 2014. If you're out and about in Valletta, I suggest you dive into the surreal realm of REGNVM and leave the busy city life behind. You owe it to yourself.

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