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October 27, 2021

Inquisitive mind – catching up with artist and traditional print-maker Henry Falzon

Henry Falzon is now becoming a familiar name within the local art scene and it’s time to catch up with this rather restless artist, his work and the latest artistic developments. Design & Decor magazine asked Henry to open up on the past, present and future of his artistic journey.

As a self-thought artist, I never attended any specific artistic training. I never felt that need. I was always comfortable on my own, sketching, thinking, and more importantly trying and trying again. My first serious foray into fine art started with technology – I took up Black & White film photography in the 90s despite my childhood being filled up with sketches and doodles. I rigged my own darkroom, bought a few books and soon I was printing my photographs. I loved it!! It was such an eye-opener. I honed my creative skills – composition, image foraging, tones, colour, narratives, visual attitudes, and many more artistic parameters.

By the 2000s film was elbowed out by digital and I switched to digital thinking it was the future. But I was disillusioned with digital colour. Colour photography hurt my existing artistic projection. I stopped the photography and I took to traditional oils and pastels including a very formative number of years painting outdoors, en Plein air.

Rather suddenly, I had this idea that altered my artistic path – I was to go back to my first love – my photography, and artistically extract, adapt, enhance and redraw my camera images – in traditional methods – pastels and later with printmaking. I reinvented my camera images and made them my own. I infused my vision, my colours, my dreams and my outlook. I often make stories in my pastels from very much dead-looking reference images I take with my mobile phone. Very often two or more reference images are consulted to make a pastel. It’s a journey of discovery to which I kept adding technology as a way to grab fleeting instances of reference. Drone, film camera, digital camera, underwater camera, and good old sketching, all feed my dreams. But technology, when used, stops at the concept stage, the early mapping out of my ideas. Once happy with the concept, I proceed to draw with my pastels or carve my lino mats by hand. I want my canvas to bear my hand as I want to control all the strokes of colour I apply to every millimetre.

The original pastel paintings proved to be well-received by the public; bright, bold and with interesting viewpoints. Pastels helped me to launch myself as an artist in ways and means that were not available before.

I also use social media (Facebook, Messenger and Instagram) to reach out to the public where I share my unfolding works in progress. Backstage views of how I work are constantly uploaded on Instagram. My studio is, in a virtual way, accessible to everyone, anywhere. People are positively curious and interested.

This strong public element and engagement led to another rather recent development – traditional printmaking. I always eyed design in a very dear way, but never had the opportunity to delve into it. It occurred to me that I could marry traditional lino printing with my pastel concept – of course with a lot of adaptation.

I print lino editions in small numbers usually in the range of 15 to 20 copies per edition. The process is laborious by very satisfying. A lino mat is carved with a design to produce the first colour and run through a hand-cranked printmaking press. The same mat is recut for a second colour and the process is repeated until all colours are applied to this fixed set of papers called the edition. My lino prints feature an average of 7 colour layers. The resulting prints are original artworks because they are done in the traditional way and are a great affordable way to start collecting original artworks.

With printmaking and pastels, I can express my range of dreams in a very dynamic way. I also do the odd large oil on canvas when I have an idea of doing a statement piece. It’s never a dull day at Henry’s studio. I promise to keep evolving and hopefully fresh to the challenges that lay ahead of me.

(This article has adaptations from Henry’s blogs.)

Visit Henry Falzon’s website for blogs and the catalogue of his latest works.

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