Illustator: Vince Briffa
Bejn Sħab u Duħħan (Between Clouds and Smoke) brings together the body of work in video, photography and drawing-painting entitled Terrain Vague by artist Vince Briffa, and a reflective essay entitled Tryst as a reaction to the work by philosopher Michael Zammit.
Terrain Vague encapsulates the artist’s continued interest in trying to define a co-existence of realities in conditions of vagueness. The works are inspired by Victor Hugo’s coining of the phrase in Les Misérables, referring to the banlieue or the suburbs; the existing urban void or neglected post-industrial space, or more precisely, the place where the city meets nature. They display a continued search for a dividing line, if indeed one clearly exists, that acts as the seam that holds together distanced, even at times opposing truths. These works do not only personify the uncertain relationship between man and place, but also act as an agent for the restitution and creation of new metaphor and meaning; harbouring equivocal spaces of becoming that are splay to infinite possibilities of engagement and interpretation. The works underpin and further unfurl the notion of the no man’s land, not seeking to act as chronicle or commentary, but rather question the very core of the many truths which they themselves suggest.
Tryst deals with the spoken word, held hostage by the very context in which it is uttered, which reveals by means of this very otherness, depths of meaning, mines of wealth and infinite possibilities vying to become manifest whenever and wherever any utterance dares be whispered. This is the prosperity (artha in Sanskrit, implies meaning) that upholds and sustains the speaking creature and its woven (protam) realities. Thus the sense of the limitless that certain forms of speech (e.g. bhasha: the language that came to be known as Sanskrit) conjure, is attractive and regarded very highly in the non-dual (advaita) philosophy addressing the isolated and fragmented human condition, exploring the echoing vague terrain lying beyond the seeming dual nature of self and the other. The transcendental therefore is distinguished as witness, a sort of no one, there where the visible recedes into the invisible and vice versa.