Advert

Speed as artistic virtue

Charlene Vella reviews The Devil of the Brush, an ongoing exhibition

Melchiorre Cafà: Charity of St Thomas of Villanova, 1663, Terracotta (MUŻA). Photo: Heritage Malta

Melchiorre Cafà: Charity of St Thomas of Villanova, 1663, Terracotta (MUŻA). Photo: Heritage Malta

Mattia Preti: St John the Baptist (detail), 1661-1666, Red chalk on paper – private collection.Mattia Preti: St John the Baptist (detail), 1661-1666, Red chalk on paper – private collection.

Fondazzjoni Patrimonju Malti (FPM) consistently puts on regular well-researched exhibitions that are intriguing whether they are set up on a large scale or in a more intimate context. Whatever the case, they manage to generate a lot of interest on the object or theme of choice that becomes the exhibition’s focus. This is always possible through the team’s unwavering enthusiasm for investigation and apt display of objets d’art.

The ongoing exhibition at Palazzo Falson is the sixth in a series, but it is the first that has been entrusted to a guest curator. It is also different in that the focus of this exhibition did not stem from an artefact that belonged to Olof Gollcher. Rather, the subject matter was left up to the guest curator who selected the theme that was to be explored.

The result is a collaboration between FPM and the head of the Department of Art and Art History at the University of Malta, Professor Keith Sciberras. The selected theme centres on artistic dexterity when coupled with furore or speed, that is, the selection fell on art works that display confidence with the medium and the artist’s experience.

The theme is embedded in a historic tradition in which an artist who was able to complete a work effectively yet rather quickly earned the admiration of his contemporaries that often aroused jealousy of his peers.

Carmelo Mangion: View of Msida, mid-20th century, Oil on cardboard – private collection.Carmelo Mangion: View of Msida, mid-20th century, Oil on cardboard – private collection.

The exhibition title, in fact, stems from the case of Giuseppe Calì (1846-1930). He was nicknamed the ‘devil of the brush’ by fellow artist Carlo Ignazio Cortis because of the speed and adeptness with which Calì executed paintings.

The exhibits are, however, not relegated to 19th and early 20th-century Maltese art. Rather, the exhibits are diverse in media, date of execution, subject and author. There is, therefore, something to suit everyone’s tastes in this exhibition. From religious themes to portraiture, from landscapes to figure studies, as well as imaginative works, the art works that include small paintings, drawings, bozzetti and the like, that derive from private and public collections.

The 19 carefully selected exhibits are by Mattia Preti, Melchiorre Cafà, Francesco Zahra, Antoine Favray, Edward Lear, Giuseppe Calì, Edward Caruana Dingli, Antonio Sciortino, Carmelo Mangion, Vincent and Willie Apap, Julian Trevelyan, Josef Kalleya and Antoine Camilleri. That is, they range from the mid-17th and 20th centuries, and the artists are Maltese or had a connection with Malta.

The artists’ fiery disposition when executing these works with technical virtuosity is beautifully coupled with the exhibition display and ambience.

Edward Caruana Dingli: Portrait of an Old Man (L-Aћmar) (detail), 1910, Oil on board – private collection.Edward Caruana Dingli: Portrait of an Old Man (L-Aћmar) (detail), 1910, Oil on board – private collection.

On viewing the exhibits, one can marvel not only at the phenomenal works of art, but also at the remarkable display that through the use of mirrors and adequate lighting, allows for a more thorough viewing of the works in question. The sheer beauty of these art works is heightened, when one considers and realises the raw artistic expression that is presented. As with anything else, knowledge is power, and the viewing experience is enhanced by key information related to the art works and the artists.

A case in point is Vincent Apap’s 1954 Portrait of Sir Winston Churchill. This larger than life-size plaster cast was executed in London in just 15 minutes. The result did not fail to impress the Prime Minister.

The exhibition is accompanied by a booklet that contains scholarly essays as well as a checklist of the works by the undisputed masters on display.

This is yet another quality exhibition by FPM and Palazzo Falson that is also a harbinger of a new series that we can look forward to.

The exhibition is open until February 25 at Palazzo Falson Historic House Museum in Mdina.

Advert
Comments not loading? We recommend using Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox with javascript turned on.
Comments powered by Disqus  
Advert
Advert