The ephemeral art beneath the face of Renzo Piano's parliament for Valletta

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Prof. Sandra Dingli


Founding B.A. (Hons.), M.A., Ph.D.(Dunelm)


The Edward de Bono Inst. for the Design & Development of Thinking

Like Diamonds in the Sky

Human beings generally attempt to make sense of what they perceive and, at times, make use of the imagination to create images which are unrelated to the object perceived. We tend, for example, to gaze reflectively at clouds which are softly meandering in the sky, and interpret the shapes as exotic or imaginary persons, animals or objects. We gloss over details, regardless of whether they may validate our ‘sense-making’ or contradict it. This involves our use of the imagination, as we see dragons, angels or demons, possibly also diamonds, floating across the blue sky and eventually fading away as one fluffy cloud merges into the next one.


Alex Attard’s photography pays a great deal of attention to detail, and the images he crafts instigate the viewer to perceive images within objects which we would not normally have paid any attention to. Attard draws our attention to details in the architectural make-up of a building, often incorporating concrete, mortar and girders, and he depicts these microcosmic scenes in a manner which we would not have conceived possible. His images of elements of the architectural environment, which so many of us take for granted and do not give a second glance to, are transformative.


Ordinary and ‘taken-for-granted’ elements, such as mortar and girders, are transformed into a dramatic and intricate spider’s web. The compositions are particularly creative and demonstrate a great deal of reflection and imagination, as he zooms in on details which elicit a sense of awe and wonder in the viewer. His works enable us to see ordinary objects in an extraordinary new light, eliciting shapes that emerge from the contrast between light and darkness in his images. His creative ability arises from his heightened sense of perception and from his capability to observe particular fine-grained details which are not immediately apparent to the untrained eye.


Artistic creativity involves the depiction of objects, such as Attard’s images, in an original manner, consequently providing food for thought and a provocative shift in thinking for the viewer. Attard’s use of the imagination is one vehicle that leads towards his creative output. The result is a sense of awe and surprise at the innovative manner in which objects are depicted. Our perceptive faculties are triggered as we attempt and, at times, struggle to make sense of what we observe. We may wonder whether what we see is really what exists, or whether we are actually creating a new reality, or layers of reality, seeing both what is visible and real, superimposed with a new ‘reality’. This new ‘reality’ is composed of the layers which our mind structures above and beyond that which is merely visible, this being the result of the provocations that Attard’s works instigate.


The thinking process is similar to the one that operates when we make sense of shapes of clouds in the sky, although in this case we are invited to perceive the ‘ordinary’ as ‘extraordinary’. It is as though Attard views the objects he depicts through a kaleidoscope, and the emotions elicited in the viewer are similar to those we experience when we recognise the intricate beauty of objects such as snowflakes, which only emerges when viewed through a microscope. The familiar is perceived in a new light, creating new meaning which would not have previously been possible. Details, which we would otherwise have overlooked, become visible. The images pull the viewer through the proverbial ‘rabbit hole’ and prompt us to make sense of what may not really be there, like diamonds in the sky.

© alex attard