Ugo Rondinone, the radiant, 2018. Location: Sa Maison Garden, Floriana, Malta. Photo credit: Elisa von Brockdorff. Courtesy: Malta International Contemporary Art Space (MICAS).
The Radiant, An Ode To The Universality Of Art

Words by Sixtine Catrice

Sa Maison Garden is a peaceful garden protected from the incessant noises of Valletta and rhythmed by the sound of the wind that moves the leaves and swings the boats in the nearby sea. Hidden in this landscape stands the radiant, the stone figure produced by the Swiss-born, New York-based artist Ugo Rondinone in 2018 as part of the first edition of the MICAS International Art Weekend. 

Giant, imposing, and impressive, its size forces us, the viewer, to raise our heads to see it as a whole. Its material, bluestone, is marked by time and weather but seems nevertheless to resist the passing of time. The piece stands like a reassuring presence: could it hold the spirit of an ancestral giant looking after us, guardian of Sa Maison Garden?

The simple qualities of the radiant enable us to easily recognize what it represents: a human form, consisting of a distinguishing head, torso, and legs. Nothing else needs to be understood or deciphered to appreciate the work. By refraining from embellishing the piece with any unnecessary details, Rondinone allows us to see the methods by which the stone has been worked. The artist wants his art to be universal and accessible to all. He said: “My work has to be easily accessible, […] it interacts with the viewer. I want to attract people to get them interested in art. And public art is the best way to do that. That is why I like it so much, it can touch every person. It is not necessary to understand art, it is necessary to feel it, to give oneself time to be impregnated by it.”[1]

By representing a human form in an archaic representation by using the oldest material, stone, Rondinone reconnects contemporary art with our prehistoric origins. His interest in stone figures also seem to be an evocation of his own origins, a reminder of the cities where he used to live during his childhood: Brunnen, the town where he grew up surrounded by mountains, and Matera where he spent his summers known for its Sassi, troglodyte houses built in the rock.[2] Rondinone is also attracted by the universality of the material, stone can be found in every culture and it has a “timeless” aspect. 

the radiant is part of a larger series of sculptures by Rondinone, all of which represent human forms made of stone, and named by various human feelings such as the worried, the cherishing, or the courageous. Indeed, feelings are a central element of the artist’s work, who wants to emphasize the emotions felt by the viewer while facing the piece, rather than the importance of analyzing each of its details. For him, what matters the most is that everyone can experience contemporary art and feel emotions. Universality is his watchword, the radiant is a site-specific work presently accessible for the public at Sa Maison Garden, Floriana, Malta.


[1] Rondinone, Ugo. 2016. Interview with Isabelle Campone. Le Temps. Available at:

[2] Rondinone, Ugo. 2016. Interview with Isabelle Campone. Le Temps. Available at:


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