As with many expressions, the term running with scissors, has more than one reference, connotation or inference. In this case, visual artist Paul Scerri plays with the literal and the symbolic in the creation of an incredibly tongue-in-cheek body of work, which is inherently and deceivingly attractive in its embodiment of what can only be described as a dual (or multiple) personality.
Paul has found a most distinct aesthetic. His figures are exceedingly curious to behold, not unlike the characters out of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, only more autobiographic and context-specific. After all, each of these figures has been drawn from the artist’s immediate environment; each piece triggered by an eccentric character, a random encounter, or even by a news item. The work is there to be read; for each character to come to life through the devices, which Paul has carefully selected in complement of the figures’ personalities. Dissecting or analysing the origins or purpose of each creation would be a disservice to the work; these pieces are as personal as they are meant to be personalised.
Generally lacking clear gender demarcations, Paul’s ceramic community does however lean towards the masculine. Mostly bald, or donning tufts of (gold) hair atop their heads, his clan is made of one and the same ilk – tiny beady eyes, small pursed lips, minimal features, yet oh so expressive. Related? Perhaps. Though more likely a stylistic choice, which allows focus on otherwise distracting details. With an incline of the head, a slightly wider eye, the raising of an eyebrow or the hint of a smile, each figure acquires pride, dignity, dismay, aloofness, irritation, worry… seemingly stricken by the sad clown syndrome.
Yet the apparent state of mind or sentiment attributed to each, is merely a portion of the underlying complexity behind this work. The figure itself, as protagonist, becomes abstracted through repetition; whilst the symbol, that which the figure represents, becomes the true distinguishing element. Nevertheless, the symbols alone would be too vague and obscure to illustrate, the figure is needed to carry the symbols which have practically been emblazoned on their chest. There can’t be one without the other.
Paul’s work is presented through a series of recurrent themes, reinforced through the use of objects or symbols such as blindfolds, keys, scissors, facemasks, headdresses, birdcages. These are often accentuated through the use of mixed media, found objects or bright and iridescent pigments. There is also a distinct link with the work Paul presented in past shows, almost as though there is a narrative being presented through continuation and the ‘re-use’ of symbols.
These minimalist men are truly contemporary icons; easily likened in stance and posture to depictions of saints in niches or plinths. Most of the works do, in fact sit on their own pedestals, their names and titles clearly inscribed. They sometimes even don a tiny pairs of wings, which are, nevertheless, a mere accessory, rather than an indication of deity. They are perhaps a little less holy and a little more impish.
But just like classical statues, they seem to be looking at us, rather than the other way around; passing judgment, or awaiting it?
LISA GWEN BALDACCHINO