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maltatoday, SUNDAY, 8 MAY 2016 30 This Week Getting to grips with a mystic St Teresa of Avila's The Seven Mansions Part of my Edge of Distance ex- hibition is dedicated to St Teresa of Avila's masterpiece in spiritual literature, the Interior Castle, also known as The Seven Mansions and The Mansions. I had been thinking about producing this set of paintings for quite a few years but it was not easy to find the right location. I think what set it all off was after I had seen Bernini's Ec- stasy of St Teresa in Rome. I be- gan reading about her and her literary works, I obtained Spanish and mainstream films regarding the life she led. I found that in contemporary culture St Teresa is usually associated with the ecstasy phenomenon and all this falls sad- ly short of her reality. I was always amazed when I thought about this saint, who lived over 500 years ago, during the Spanish inquisition, where women were not very much looked up to. She became a leading reformer, travelling around a very barren and troubled Spain, open- ing one convent after another. She was a visionary and through her faith she regularly challenged the hierarchy of the church, including the Pope. So it was in this climate that she wrote the Interior Castle (1577). From 'visions' to canvas I had initially wanted to paint my interpretation of The Seven Mansions on huge 6 metre (18 feet) canvases, but logistically this was proving difficult to actual- ize, so against my wishes I had to shelvethis project. Then last summer as I was visiting Gozo, I happened to take a look inside il- Hagar – Heart of Gozo Museum in Pjazza San Gorg, Victoria. I had a reasonable body of finalised work which I had been working on for the past year or so and I was con- sidering exhibiting. I immediately liked the venue. I then discovered they had a separate room further inside and that's when the penny dropped. I decided to rekindle The Seven Mansions project with the difference that the works would be smaller. The end result was that I settled to paint on 2.10 metre (7 feet) free hanging canvases, simi- lar to a tapestry. So the idea was that I would hang my paintings in the main area of the venue and utilize the other room solely for St Teresa's Mansions. I immediately made enquires and very soon I had the date confirmed for the Edge of Distance exhibition. I purposely wanted to have both my abstract and surrealist works exhibited with The Seven Mansions, al- though I will confess that I am not exactly sure why. But that's what I decided. Mulling it over I started work on The Seven Mansions in the middle of last November. The research I had al- ready gone through and the ideas for most of The Mansions were quite set in my mind so that saved a lot of time; although I must con- fess that in two or three of The Mansions I had to do some hard re-thinking and certain primary ideas got changed. I wanted to cre- ate a set of contemporary paint- ings with imagery reflecting the connection of what was written 500 years ago with meaning for life in today's world. The context is timeless. To help the viewer I will be placing short explanations beside each of The Mansions, just a hint basically; so that everyone can then make their own interpre- tation. Scaling back the flamboyance In the main area I have hung 12 of my paintings which, together with my curator Joe Philippe Ab- ela, I chose from works I produced between 2014 and 2016. The paintings in this Edge of Distance exhibition vary from abstract, ab- stract impressionist, organic art, surrealist and colour field art. The last painting I made for this expo was 'She passes through the Veils of Night' and I have a feeling that it could be indicative of what might be coming out in the near future, but I never really know. I think if I had to compare this collection with works from my previous 11 solo exhibitions I would say that my use of flamboyant colour has lessened, and experimenting with the colour field approach has been worthwhile. I have used flat monochromic colour in some of the work to express in a manner I have never done before. Naturally there is always the strong sense of drama and movement, but the ap- proach is different. The strength in the work is still there – I have kept it alive. Do I prefer my paint- ings this way? All I can say is that at every step of the way, since 1994 when I held my first expo at the Museum of Fine Arts in Valletta, I was content with what I had done. Each event was always meaningful to me. They are like springboards, one leads to another… Many helping hands The Edge of Distance exhibi- tion is also different because this time I have reached out for guid- ance and assistance; namely Joe Philippe Abela as curator who has given me good advice when it was truly needed. I also, for a change, took note of the intuitive guidance of my close mentor Tania Muscat during the period I worked on the exhibits. I must mention Pamela Baldacchino who took care of the editing of a 16-page catalogue I have printed for the event. And last but not least, Laner Cassar, who very kindly visited my studio several times and wrote an essay regarding the works in the Edge Veteran painter Damian Ebejer speaks to TEODOR RELJIC about his latest exhibition, The Seven Mansions, currently on display at Il-Hagar: Heart of Gozo. The discussion takes a rich turn – hardly surprising, given that the set of paintings forming part of this latest collection are inspired by the titular Seven Mansions of St Teresa of Avila – a cornerstone of Christian mystical writing Damian Ebejer She treads though the Veils of Night Alphabet of Desire Stillness of the Cliffs

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