More Arty Afflatus... 
from the pen of ANDRÉ CARBONARO

Thoughts on

Art by the seaside Christmas Collective


a collective exhibition

held at Art by the Seaside
12th December - 22nd December 2021

Senglea, early evening, a crowd is gathered by the seaside, sipping wine and smoking, they are a few steps away from the front to be precise, but nevertheless close enough to smell the sea and to hear the ropes battling the masts of the yachts berthed, and the waves gently rocking the piers, where centuries ago the Knights berthed their vessels, there where essentially nothing or little has changed in those streets except the nuisance to park. Number 65 greets me with a warm glowing light, reminiscent of Nanna's heartwarming glass of wincarnis and with warmer smiles from the curator and the people gathered outside; the artists themselves and their friends, and others who like me were intrigued to see what this new gallery had to offer this time around.

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I walk and observe as my hand itches to take notes, the art is multifarious, eclectic, both in the media used and in the style. The bold metal installations and the delicate water colours, the oils and the filigree, depicting the erotic in a subtle way that goes down well with the red wine that I am by now sipping. The hyperrealist charcoals, crude in their own manner yet delicate in their delivery. The resin resting on the rusty coarse sheet metal giving us a crucifix which in my opinion should have been displayed more prominently, but then again, it is the work of the able curator and she thought otherwise. Karl’s works stare at me and I stare back, trying to decipher what mood he was in when he created them; then I heard him ramble and taking over the scene outside, and I realized that this would be a hard guess for me. He is one hell of a character! I look over the Bastions, a creation straight from Antonio’s mind and fall into the bursting deep blues of Kevin Sciberras’ macrocosm, only to find myself wandering in Stephania Micallef’s misty moods, there in the desolate moors of her mind, and then grabbing Sarah’s little book to check on the promises she wants me to keep. I walk from room to room, going back for seconds, (and more wine) The rooms here in the Senglea house feed my braincells in a comforting way, I feel at home with that work, I relate to most all of the paintings and the sculptures, bold like their master Dave, albeit in different ways. This collective is a result, a positive report of how the art scene on this little island of ours is thriving. It is the second time I’ve been to Senglea in a couple of weeks and I hope that the curators of this little gallery give me more reasons to visit more often.

Thoughts on 'M'haju allibbirari'


an exhibition by Rebecca Ranieri,

held at Art by the Seaside
25th November - 10th December 2021

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Fact – Rebecca Ranieri is one of the most accomplished artists to grace these islands in recent years. Yet her latest works have exceeded all expectations, touching a subject that many in the art world prefer to pass by, ignore and try to forget. 

Pain, not just physical, but mental, deep pain coming from the soul, scorching all emotions, burning deep inside, echoing the pleas, cries, the imploration of a woman, in agony, angry at herself, at her life, at the world around her for being dealt such a bad hand, for being forgotten, left to rot, without hope, without a future, without anything to look forward to. 

M’haju allibbirari is all about this, and more.

Her voice is weak, but her paintings are strong, she will not go down without a fight. In reality she is the epitome of all the sufferers out there, those in a constant combat against their demons, against abuse, against the blood sucking dealer on the roulette table - the table with odds of one in a million. And yet that little chance, that tiny freckle of light, that fragile dream, so fragile that it could fly away into oblivion with a gust of breeze, is the same chance that keeps her alive, fighting to live another day. Hoping against hope in a miracle.

It is an imploration, a quest to kill the demons inside her, she lives with that hope, pitching all her possessions on one last bet, one last turn of the pill, desiring an escape from those four walls, that are surrounding her, entrapping her, prohibiting her from living.

Her existence lies merely on the tip of her painting brush, and she is desperate to paint a door, a route to escape from, she wants her life back, she wants to glow again, she wants to shout and sing, put the past behind her brush the succubae away with a magic stroke. Breathe, live, love once again, once more in a land with no shadows, no darkness, no void.

Ranieri has spoken and not only that, she has given a voice to the oppressed, she has grabbed the bull by the horns and is an Ambassador for all those women and men that suffer in silence. Let them be silenced no more !

All this and more from the graceful hands of Rebecca Ranieri, strong emotions that tell us this story, which is the story of the destitute, the distressed, the exploited, the persecuted…. who knows how it will end… Only Rebecca has the answers. We just have to wait.

Having said all this, I also have to add a note on the fantastic impression that the gallery left on me, Art by the Seaside is a venue that I am sure many artists will choose in the coming months to exhibit their works. It is situated in the heart of Senglea, yet far enough from all the chaos that cities come with and close enough to the sea, for one to hear the gentle ripple of the waves and admire Fort St. Angelo sleeping on the opposite side; it is spacious yet cozy, bright yet intimate, giving one the chance to look at the works at ease. I shall definitely be on the look out for the events that shall be held here. The place has immense potential and I am sure we will be seeing important works here in the upcoming weeks and months.

Thoughts on 'Collectively Solo II'


a collective exhibition,

held at Gallery 23
20th November - 21st December 2021

It is just past dusk when I step into Gallery 23, an art space tucked away in quaint Balzan, not quite knowing what to expect. I am met with coziness, and a warmth that only beautiful pieces of art can emanate. The dusk I am faced with as I venture inside is a different kind from the one I left at the doorstep, it is radiating, almost placing me in one of the verandas that Beatriz Solera Caballero managed to capture with such charm and detail, and making an otherwise mundane scene look and feel alive. The silky lilac wraps my heart in a longing of evenings squabbling with my sister over Ludo or snakes and ladders, of warm baths and Enid Blyton books, wrapping Maltese life in its entireness.

I reluctantly part company from this beauty and more works catch my eye, I am stunned at how Caroline Said Lawrence manages to give us the thousand colours of Africa in 4 sublime portraits, capturing joy, pain, hope, beauty and diversity in her work. They are a joy to look at, an inspiration, the detail is immense, and the eyes of those African ladies seem to follow me everywhere, as if to try and read my mind and engage with me. As I scurry through the mysterious narrow streets of Vella Clark through the mind-blowing parallel world of Anna Miggiani, I meet the crowds in Winston Hassall’s rendition of Valletta’s squares before resting at the feet of Henry Falzon’s Tritons. The boldness of Alex Dalli with his blues and complex simplicity contrasts well with the intrinsic detail of Debbie Bonello’s landscapes, so different yet so connected, east and west meet in Karl Froman’s style, his pieces are an illumination, linking past and future, and fable and reality, fragility and strength, in a way so sublime that you positively risk getting transported.

Andrew Micallef takes us into a hobbit like world so realistic that you feel you can step into it, while the audacious works of Anna Galea make you look twice to see what there is hidden in plain sight. Christian Formosa highlights the importance of freedom of speech and the medium used describes perfectly its forte, its importance but also its frailty and the need to preserve it because once lost it will be lost forever. Jenni’s nudes portray the delicate form of the female body, lost in a world of their own taking their own time and being what they are, in all their glory. Marisa Attard’s unique style catches my eye and the attention to detail is impressive, I am particularly ticked by the buttons on one of her gentleman’s jacket. Debbie Caruana Dingli and her jelly fish remind me of my rare ventures on the Qawra seashore on any given morning, the ladies the caps at al. She captured the ladies perfectly, and the conversation to a third degree.

I am particularly intrigued by the style of Arja Nukarninen Callus, the deft strokes, the attention to detail and the particular subject. I will certainly be on the look out for more of hers, as I will of Andrew Smith and his urban observations alongside two very interesting shoreline renditions. Adam Telegdi- Kovacs and his ceramic based works are also very interesting but what really caught my eye were his urban representations, speaking louder than words can ever speak, moving at a fast pace whilst staying put, they are an interesting subject to study and look at over and over again.

Jade Zammit’s nudes on brown paper are pieces that every art lover would want to own, simple yet sophisticated, erotic without being rude, I guess osé would be the right word to describe them. Chapeau.

As I walked around, I could not help but noticing Sarah Calleja’s works, I knew she was good, colleagues had told me she was but this is not just good, this is excellence. Her works are so beautifully executed that I guess that her paint brushes feel lightness and pleasure as they touch the canvas, the colours are bursting, alive, inviting, different, the dynamic in her work is like a breath of fresh air, I am sure that even though she is already an accomplished professional, she will go a long way.

I never saw the time passing, this was a journey through different styles, exploring different moods and experiencing different reactions with every work I saw. The curator Rachel Said is extremely well versed, and I thoroughly enjoyed our conversation. Gallery 23 was a wonderful surprise and as I walk out I feel as if I have taken part of it with me, before I leave, I take one last glance at that lilac sky reassuring myself that I will be back soon.

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Thoughts on 'Il-Jien... u min Jien?'


an exhibition by Mauro Pace Parascandalo,

held at Volunteer Centre Rabat
12th - 24th November 2021

There are a few occasions in life when beauty emerges as a result of excruciating pain, of sorrow, of heartbreak. Where ugliness gives way to sublimination to offer us a rare glimpse of what really lies within our subconscious and thus help us realize how fragile the balance between good and bad, pain and pleasure, madness and genius really is. It almost triggers in us a sadistic streak and to a degree makes us question even the most basic notions of life as we know it, life as we were brought up to think we should live it, and making us realize that tipping the scale, in reality, is not so difficult, that not being mainstream can be a way of life as well and on the other hand making the task of defining right from wrong a humungous one.

Pace Parascandalo manages to capture the very essence of being in his daring works. Through sheer beauty he highlights pain, and through torment he brands perfection. Combining earth, wind and fire to the human form in all its glory and in all its vulnerability to give us souls, our souls, the souls of our friends, neighbours, foes, the souls that are hidden beneath the flesh that will at one point die, decay, for them to then run unencumbered free from the shackles that the world threw at them during their passage on this earthly madness. There is one constant, the uniqueness of each and every one of us, highlighting the fact that what’s good for the goose is not necessarily good for the gander.

In his works MPP exposes the weaknesses and the strengths of humanity in its rawest form, the woes, the fears but also the hopes for a new beginning through a new life, through regeneration, maybe in another form or through another person. He depicts us, our darkest secrets, our nemesis, our unobstructed vision of life and of death. He singles us out, glorifies us and damns us, he makes us look at death in the eye and smile at it because no matter what, we are the masters of our destiny and the ending to our story is only determined by what we really want and by what we really think is worth fighting for. MPP gives us a wake-up call to look at what we don’t really want to look at and he knows that once we do, once we face our demons our reaction might be quite surprising after all!

Thoughts on 'PROtaGOniesTEA'


an exhibition held at Centru ghall-Volontarjat, Rabat
21st August - 11th September 2021

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Did you ever wake up on Cup Final day with a gut feeling that your team was going to win, a feeling so strong that you almost can imagine the captain lifting the trophy hours before the actual match starts ? Be it in sport or anything else I am sure that everyone of us has had this hunch at one point in our lives. It is something we cannot really explain but when it is fulfilled the sense of elation is one that cannot be explained in a few words. It is more than just a prediction, it is something that comes from the core of our gray matter, an upbeat effect maybe. What ever you may call it, I experienced this as I was negotiating my way through the quasi Kiplingesque alleys of Rabat to visit PROtaGOniesTEA. I knew that this was going to be a winner, a top of the ladder manifestation of art, a realization of beauty, emotion, and esoteric talent.

From the moment I walked in the charming house where the exhibition is being held, I knew I was right and the rush of adrenaline did not leave me until my eyes and my brain had gorged on the pieces that our artists had on display. I walked with little Red Riding hood, through the enchanted forest, making sure not to scare the wolf and be scorned by Etienne for doing so, through the magical passage ways that spilled from Peter Seychell’s mind on to mine, helping me find the secret passage and the light at the end of the tunnel, to eventually encounter the beautiful fairy that Keith managed to get a glimpse of from behind his mesmerizing lens, I made my way through fields of colour and imagery sampling the lusciousness and the warmth that Clint and Andrew had on display for me, making my imagination run wild and the clockwork of my mind make double takes as I was emotionally surprised over and over again.

 

From the subtle beauty and colourful imagery, to trepidation that Dante must have felt when meeting the dark beast, I could hear Sylvana’s plea through the voices of the troubled souls that Pace Parascandalo helped materialize, cries for help in a world that could roll over us had it not been for this salvation that we call art. From Fabio to Rosanna, from Sarah’s verses to Kay’s virtual friends, described in so much detail that one can almost read what is going on in their digital mind, I end up taking in the delicate yet strong presentations of Rebecca. I have rarely seen anything like this before, strength and fragility forging such a strong unbreakable bond that makes you want to know more. You find yourself trying to discover the mood, the thought, and the mystery after every stroke of the brush, after every line, every contour.

 

PROtaGOniesTEA is not just an exhibition, it is a journey, your thoughts will be ricocheting as you move from one piece to another, you will want to move forward but at the same time you will want to stay while being pulled back. Then when you have made the tour, you end up where you started, in indeed where all our races in life started in front of the magnificent phallus, form the genius of Mark Mallia’s mind through the deepest corners of our soul, a full circle of life, encountering beauty, pain, struggle, magic, wanderlust, frivolity and deep emotions along the way.

 

I was gob smacked, but it was not all done. After this rollercoaster of a ride I had the pleasure of making intelligent conversation with some of the most eclectic people I met recently. It was a bonus and I am looking forward to indulging further next time around, also hoping that that magnificent bastard Mark Mallia does not put the red wine in the refrigerator.

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Thoughts on 'Dreamscapes'


an exhibition by Johanna Barthet, held at DESKO, Valletta
9th - 23rd July 2021

Soul searching through art is a therapy that I have been finding very comforting, I am no art critic nor do I pretend to be one, but I am enjoying using my modest writing skills to try paint a literary picture of what I see when I visit these galleries and exhibitions. So I headed to 104 in St Lucy Street , may I add in the foreboding scorching heat that an 11 o’clock in July in Malta can offer to us mere mortals.

I had recently read somewhere that someone described Johanna Barthet’s Dreamscape exhibition as an escape from reality, dreamscapes seems to imply so but well and truly I could not disagree more. Rather that an escape, Johanna gives us her idea of what idyllic reality looks like, rather than a longing to get away from it all it is a prayer to become part of it, to make it happen, to fuse. She opens a window through which we can see her vision, glimpsing at how she sees the world and all that surrounds her, all in a manifestation of colour that makes you look twice and trice, transporting you on to the canvas (or in JB’s case plywood and chipboard) to explore in more detail what you don’t see at first glance.

The deliberate omission of detail does the trick, executed in almost contradictory minute and meticulous manner and with great thought, thus giving each and every visitor the opportunity to fill those gaps in his or her own personal intimate way, ultimately giving different experiences and thrills according to how the clockwork in each individual mind works.

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From Stories untold, to landscapes to dreamscapes, Johanna has matured, moving away from her comfort zone, refining her unique quasi-cynical twist, one that is not necessarily visible to passers-by, a twist that leaves coded messages between the lines or rather between the strokes of one brush and the other. I could almost swear that there were cheeky little characters smirking and making faces at me from the elaborate nooks and crannies as I looked closer to try and catch them in the act. I am sure Johanna hid them deliberately in plain sight so it would be difficult for us to see them. Pretty much like raw oysters, Johanna’s works are an acquired taste, those with a keen eye and a vivid imagination should buckle up their seat belts and enjoy the ride. Throughout the years her works have kept us guessing, wondering what is coming next, what’s hidden under her sleeve. I am sure that many of you, like me are already wondering what Johanna’s box of chocolates will offer next.