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Ħamsin. An exhibition by Etienne Farrell - Opens Today

Ħamsin, which means 50 in Maltese, is apt as the artist, Etienne Farrell, turns 50 today. To celebrate, she will be exhibiting 50 pieces, with each piece representing each year of her life.


The exhibition will be held in an early 17th-century Palazzo in Qrendi currently undergoing renovation. From its construction in circa 1616, its subsequent split in the 19th century and its recent renovation, the building has gone through changes in both appearance and purpose.


These changes align very much with Farrell’s perspective as she understands that change is inevitable and people all change. Change ensures relevance and keeps people purposeful and true to their nature.



The Importance of Time


The timing of the production of this work is key. Etienne Farrell is very much aware that she has less time left than has already passed, making time perspective a central motivational theme. As a young woman, Farrell used to perceive time ahead as open-ended. Today, she understands that the future is finite, and is becoming more aware that death is no longer an abstract fact of life, but something very real.


The artist’s work explores the centrality of time’s passage to human consciousness. It represents the fundamental fact that everybody exists day by day, and is engaged in their own life’s passage, which will, one day, inevitably come to an end.


Time allows people to increase the number of memories they have, and time causes some memories to become broken, dispersed, and perhaps unreliable. Memory and time go hand in hand in dealing with personal history. Each person has their own way of understanding history and some memories would serve them better if they remained repressed. Memory is inherently selective, and it has a proven tendency to rework original facts in ways that agree with the wishes and values of the person remembering.


The work is thus, very subjective. It forms an environment that evokes thoughts about death, mourning, and the loss of memory and emphasises people’s inability to genuinely recall their past since memory interweaves truth and inaccuracies.



The Work


Ħamsin is a collection of fifty paintings, each representing and summing up a particular year from when Farrell was born, from 1974 to 2024. The pieces themselves are free from sensationalism and are genuine to the memories that created them, however, unreliable memories can be. The notion of memories’ inherent unreliability led to their representations in abstract forms.


The work shows how memory can be a slippery mechanism, sometimes vague, with pockets of uncertainties in recollections. It shows how recollections can be both elusive and intrusive and that people can rarely be completely sure of their faithfulness to the facts that they recall. Memories are frail glimpses of the past; images and feelings that tease our present. They are but a nostalgic realisation through which people can never fully relive the same exact experience.



Etienne Farrell hopes that the work appeals to the involvement of its visitors to the same extent as the artist’s involvement in producing it. Visitors will undoubtedly have memories linked to particular years featured in this collection, and each work’s meaning is to be negotiated in the interaction between the viewer and the work. In turn, every time that the work is visited, it creates new experiences, as memories are modified and transformed. The artist intends to have viewers feeling free and intrigued to enter and move around the space, stopping, guessing, understanding and making the experience a personal journey, not only through Farrell’s past but also through their own.



Life is a Circus


In every person’s “circus”, they depend on others and others depend on them. They are forced to perform even when under stress and their roles and costumes change in every performance. They are being constantly scrutinised and are expected to show confidence, even if they are on the verge of giving up. Through this work, Farrell wants to remember and draw attention to how complex and beautiful people’s lives are; that one single life is a complete whole universe that needs to be appreciated. Every life is worth celebrating and trying to recover aspects of that life though memory isessential to give value to the lives of everyone.


Etienne Farrell

February 2024


Smile and amuse like a clown.

Even if you’re dead on the inside.

Stand straight and tall on your high rope.

Even if you’re holding on to life by a thread.

Juggle as many roles as you can. Keep the rhythm. Keep the timing.

Even when your limbs become sore.

Close your eyes. Take the jump. Trust blindly.

You have no choice.

Walk through the horror house, shoot for a prize, pay the ticket, and ride the roller coaster. Buckle up.

Wear your mask.

Get into the act.

Life is a circus and we’re in it to have fun.

Don’t disappoint.

Everyone is watching.


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