Exploring Beauty In Art And Science

Martina Said - 2nd June 2018

Liliana Fleri Soler discusses the effect that her scientific background has on her art, her most recent exhibition of sculptures, and the joy of sharing art with others.

In the creative and imaginative world of artist Liliana Fleri Soler, art and science co-exist in the most organic of ways – an uncommon combination of virtues in our modern times, perhaps, although she’s quick to point out that artists of the past, particularly the Renaissance period, considered art and science to be one and the same.

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“I’ve enjoyed making things for as long as I can remember,” says Liliana. “I loved painting and simply creating things driven by my own interests as a child. However, as was very common in those days, pursuing art as a career wasn’t something I was encouraged to do. It was simply a time when being an artist wasn’t considered a real profession, unless there was someone in your family who was established in artistic circles.”

Art was an interest she pursued in her own time throughout the years, while she focused on teaching science, specifically biology and chemistry. “I started teaching science at a very young age, around 18 years old or so, and during that time, I experimented with art and different media. Meanwhile, around 20 years ago, my brother started a framing business, The Picture House. My daughter was born around the same time, and so I stopped teaching, but I often replaced my brother at his shop, which was a perfect place for meeting and chatting with artists and like-minded individuals.”

All this time, Liliana says she read about and studied art obsessively. “There was no formal training, just a thirst to discover more and more.” Her breakthrough moment came rather unexpectedly when she offered to decorate the house of a friend, who would eventually become a client, with some colourful pieces of art. “He had a particular space he wanted to decorate, and I saw it as a chance to get creative with a proverbial blank canvas,” says Liliana. “They were large, floor-to-ceiling pieces, and when he came to collect them, he was impressed and a little surprised that I had kept this skill to myself for so long. This is when I emerged from my shell artistically, and this experience gave me the impetus I needed to give it a real shot and explore the idea of making, sharing and selling my art.”

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From that point on, Liliana’s artistic journey took its own natural course, but her interest in science never faltered. “For a long time, I dreamed about attending art school abroad, specifically the Slade School of Fine Art in London, and for my formal education to be in art rather than science. However, after many years, I was able to recognise the immense value of science in my life, and the influence it has on my art too. It also came to have many advantages, and the knowledge I gained from my teaching background has helped me enormously.”

In 2012, Liliana was commissioned to do a series of works for Science in the City, the same year that the popular event was founded. She created a set of large, full-size sculptures of humanoid fruit flies during their life cycle, from courting to mating, which are now housed within the Biology Department at the University of Malta. “That same year, I started Creativity for Life, an artistic programme aimed at helping children express their creativity, which I still run today. I was commissioned to create another set of science-art sculptures for the same event in 2016, which I have to say are a whole lot of fun to make and a way of bringing science, art and education together, all of which I’m passionate about.”

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During this time, Liliana was also busy working on a concept for a new exhibition, which opened in May 2017, titled A Distant Noise of Time, featuring a collection of 13 bronze sculptures and a series of paintings, all of which revolved around a character she created, named The Striding Woman. The concept was one which evolved gradually and freely over a number of years – her last exhibition of sculptures before this one was in 2011, “so there was a substantial amount of time for thoughts and ideas to brew.”

Liliana’s figures infallibly draw inspiration from the female form – “I like working with the figure in general, but I identify with the female form which tends to feature in some way or other in my work. Some of the figures for this exhibition were life-size, but all were tall and thin, as my sculptures tend to be.” She walks over to the open studio section of her apartment, where a number of works are on display while others are works-in-progress, to pick up one of the sculptures from the exhibition which she kept for herself. “She’s my favourite,” she says, laughing. “It’s strange how attached you can get after working on them for so long!”

The process for her bronze figures begins with copper, with which she creates the bones for a sculpture. She then proceeds to mould the figure with wax, pressing and shaping the wax to create the desired form. “What I really enjoy is the construction of the sculpture – a stick figure develops into a wax figure, until all the wire is covered. I then move on to the details, which is when the fun begins,” she says. “Once the wax moulds are done, they’re taken to the foundry to be cast in bronze. Only one of each mould is cast in bronze, and I give them all a metallic patina to lessen the gaudy hue of the bronze.”

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Photo by David Pisani

Asked whether the collection, and her art at large, is inspired by specific events or experiences, Liliana says it is life in general which influences her work, specifically things that amuse rather than just influence her. She admits that she doesn’t like detailing and explaining her art, as she believes that part of the scope and joy of art lies in the audience’s own interpretation of it. “I don’t think the artist should dictate how or what to feel – art is subjective, just like music. When watching or listening to an opera, it doesn’t come with a manual telling you how you should feel or what you should think.”

While the artist has no immediate plans for another exhibition of sculptures, she says the last one gave her many satisfying moments which she cherishes dearly. “At this point in my life, I really cannot say that I’m working to achieve specific goals. I simply love what I do – all of it – and there’s no working for tomorrow, it’s working for now,” she explains. “Having said that, when a concept translates from an idea in your mind to reality, it’s immensely satisfying for me as an artist. And then of course there’s the satisfaction of selling your work, and of people you don’t always know telling you they have a piece you created. While parting with the work isn’t always easy, there’s a lot of joy in sharing it with others.”

The full version of this interview originally appeared in The Commercial Courier


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Exploring Beauty In Art And Science