Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Article by Duncan Mercieca on artist Rupert Cefai


San Gorg - 70x70 - 2007

When one looks at Rupert’s paintings there is a sense of identification. However, it is rather a strange identification! Although some of the paintings refer to real places, such as the Rabat Malta and San Gorg, others I feel are not as separate from me. I feel a sense of the Mediterranean and the Maltese about the landscapes. While this sense of identification with the landscape gives me a location, I also feel lost through the use of colours, through the bending of different shapes and smudges, through the lines of colour that one sees in Rupert’s paintings.

I find this most attractive and appealing in Rupert’s powerful art exhibition (see webpage). Through his art Rupert challenges my conceptions of the landscape. He is able to stretch me further. On his canvas he is able to bring alive a number of forces which I might overlook in my preconceived vision of landscapes, churches and fortifications. Rupert’s canvas is a theatre of these forces, of this action. This I believe makes Rupert a powerful artist. Through his knowledge of colours, shapes and techniques he is able to make actual what is virtual. Forces are made possible through the smudges and woozy colours and different shapes. I find it very interesting that this is not a stretching of the imagination, but a stretching of the visual. Rupert does not suggest to me how I am to see and make sense of it. At times he would title his paintings: Rahal Ikhal or just Untitled. What he is offering me is a possibility. He puts together forces that go beyond my perceptions. Moreover Rupert is not afraid to put together conflicting and opposing forces on his canvas. A clear example of this is: Rabat Malta. A serene background of a church, with light colours. Typical of Maltese architecture and colours. Then a dripping red patch of colour starting from the top middle going down through the painting and smudges the middle. Striking! Opposing colours and shapes; contradictory forces that cannot live together. Yet on Rupert’s canvas this is possible. Rupert does not try to unite opposites, not to bring about harmony that we usually strive for by finding a compromise. His harmony consists in making opposites possible on his canvas, without destroying each other.

There are two options before us. We can either try to ask Rupert why he did that? The meaning of it? Or else we can ask how does this red patch in contrast with the church affect me? How is this striking piece of art working for me? What is it creating in me? This is very personal for each person. It is not listening to Rupert as an oracle, but seeing the canvas as having a life of its own independent of Rupert. Rather than saying whether one likes it or not, one needs to ask what forces are being produced in me through the colours that Rupert is using.

The same happens with the square shapes that haunt Rupert’s paintings in this exhibition. Square shapes, oblong shapes, heavy shapes, filled with colour. At times light square shapes made up of just thin white lines. I feel comfortable with square shapes. A quick look at our architecture reveals the square shape. We feel comfortable living in square shapes. But in spite of the closeness that a square shape offers, in spite of the limitations that a square shape holds, Rupert places these square shapes on canvas in a way that makes them escape themselves. The limited spaces, the square shapes help the painting to escape itself. An example is Wara t-tejatru Marcello. The squares, while holding their squareness are bursting upwards; they almost take me beyond the painting. Again I ask how this is working on me.

Exhibition titled C, is Rupert Cefai’s third exhibition and I would say that this exhibition is a transitory one as he is preparing for an exhibition in Rome in mid next year. On the other hand, the art work presented in this exhibition places Rupert on a new plateau.

.rahal ikhal - 60x40 - 2007

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