'Raw' portraits
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'Raw' portraits

Shaun Grech's artistic streak started showing when he was barely six, squatting on the floor smearing paints, crayons and pencil colours on scraps of cardboard and paper.

"I was forever experimenting with different colours and textures that veered from any technical form. I wanted to produce something new and different," he said.

Texture still fascinates the 29-year-old who has just launched his first exhibition, together with Otello Maga, Mark Schembri and Saviour Baldacchino, at the Gallery Last Touch in Main Street, Mosta.

The exhibition, called Deviations and which runs until December 22, is being organised by Christine Calleja, who has such an admiration for art that she has started organising collective exhibitions.

Though Mr Grech has always harboured an innate sense for art, he has only started focusing solidly on painting in the past five years.

After a brief flirtation with abstract art, Mr Grech, who is self-taught, has moved on to working on portraits that depict pain and hurt.

"I have a habit of observing people and taking a mental snapshot of them in their most vulnerable moment. For some, paintings of trees, horses, clouds or greenery provide the necessary stimulus but for me, what's real is the pain and suffering from within," he said.

His art blends the funny, chaotic, political, sexual and painful, inspired by his quasi-obsessive penchant for observing and depicting people in their most fragile states.

Mr Grech admits that his work strays from technical art forms and he refuses to pigeonhole his pieces, though some have described it as "brute" and "raw".

"I have remained artistically 'iglooed' on purpose. I don't use other artists as mentors and I strive to do my own thing, whether this is healthy or not," he said.

While shunning influence from top artists, Mr Grech looks to the underdog as his hero, and fails to see any particular appeal in glamour.

Mr Grech's online gallery is updated with his latest works - www.shaungrech.com.

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