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

Thoughts on 'PROtaGOniesTEA'

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


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.


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.


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.