Valletta Contemporary

Artistic Direction by Norbert Francis Attard

Participating artists: Carlos Garaicoa (CU), Gerold Miller (DE), Jurgen Ostarhild (DE), Yeoul Son (KR)

Throughout history, numbers have been known to have cultural and even magical associations. In contemporary times, numbers are fundamental to statistics and are often associated with colours in pie charts, line graphs, heat maps and other forms of data visualisation that simplify complex scientific results for communication purposes. The numerical title of this exhibition draws inspiration from a much humbler origin: an old telephone dial with numbers and letters that ‘spells out’ the initials of the four artists participating in the exhibition. Hence, Carlos Garaicoa becomes 24, Gerold Miller becomes 46, Jurgen Ostarhild is 50 and Yeoul Son is 97. The title replaces one form of identification (names) with another (numerical codes), but this seemingly arbitrary system of categorisation helps to bring to light visual, conceptual and other lines of convergence. 

Born in 1967 in Havana, Cuba, the artist Carlos Garaicoa often explores the realities of urban environments, architecture and complex social issues in his work. Over the years, Garaicoa has used photography, installation and other media to portray decay, neglect and fragility. String and weights delineate a ghostly architectural geometry in the gallery space, while a wooden table transformed into sculpture highlights the violent roots of architecture, cities and social life. The artist’s powerful and thought-provoking work often uses simple materials to offer a space for reflection about conflictual relationships between people and urban landscapes. In contrast, architecture and geometrical form are simplified in the work of the German artist Gerold Miller, born in 1961 and based in Berlin and Pistoia, Italy. If Garaicoa makes us reflect about the ruins of the past, Miller presents an undefined and relatively ‘unformed’ space that exists somewhere in between painting, sculpture and architecture. Miller’s minimalist configurations do not create defined spatial parameters; rather, they point towards an infinite reimagining of space and physical environments. 

The third artist included in 24. 46. 50. 97. translates these minimal colour zones into algorithmic permutations on LED screens. Born in 1956 in Überlingen, Germany, Jurgen Ostarhild makes use of light and references to computer-generated data and colour in works that respond to an ever-changing value of the crypto currency Bitcoin and the Ethereum Blockchain. Ethereum is a decentralised network that allows users to make secure transactions without the need for intermediaries such as banks. Similarly, Ostarhild’s ‘decentralised’ work projects minimalist or colour field painting into a future in which light emissions are performances of data sets that transcend the artist’s imagination. In contrast, the work of Yeoul Son (born in 1985 in Seoul, South Korea) presents natural and urban phenomena as chromatic fields and data sets. Working in a variety of media, Yeoul Son reflects about the effects of contemporary technologies on our lives and the natural world. Numerical data collection related to temperature, Covid 19 and other phenomena is expressed as colour and light, expanding the horizons of the aesthetic in the process. 

In fact, all four artists included in the exhibition push the boundaries of the aesthetic by either experimenting with media, incorporating new technologies and digital realities or addressing social, political and economic issues. By pushing the limits of the known, the artists bring new ideas, perspectives, and experiences to the forefront.