Thursday, February 07, 2008

Kenneth Zammit Tabona at b'art

Yesterday I managed to pop by to the opening of Kenneth Zammit Tabona's latest exhibition of watercolours. The exhibition, which is being held at ‘b’art’- Art Gallery and Wine bar is a collection of works painted 'al fresco', and fresh it is indeed. The childlike simplicity found in Kenneth's paintings has always intrigued me. The awkward relationship between perspective and colour in Kenneth’s work results in a delightful and refreshing vision; he manages to combine simplicity and complexity (such as in Trees at San Anton Gardens (left)) on the same piece of paper in a way no other Maltese artist can. My Favourite piece is definitely ‘The Road to Nowhere’ (right), just fell in love with the piece.


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Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Royal Dilemma

A few months ago I was telling my wife that one of the tell tale signs that the general election is looming is the fact that, again, our political parties started talk about that big ugly site at the entrance of our capital city; that big hole in the ground where once stood the Royal Opera House. The site that housed the theater designed by Barry was bombed to the ground in 1942, that's over 65 years ago. That's 65 years of governments incapable of doing something about 0NE single building. I can understand why nothing was done during the immediate years after the war, but how can any one justify the fact that after all these years we are still with a big hole in the ground at the entrance of Valletta. Past and present Governments were incapable of giving to the Maltese people what the second world war had taken away.

Each and every election that I can remember, the same promises and false hopes resurfaced. I have a vague recollection of the 1981 election, I was only ten then, but all subsequent general elections I remember quite clearly; from 1987 to today the issue of what to do with those ruins in Valletta was raised at least every 5 years. We heard all sorts of things, from rebuilding the opera house to having an arts center and even building a new edifice housing the parliament. We had a competition in 1953 for a theater and another one during the early 90's for an arts center but nothing came out of them. What's even worse is the fact that we came to accept the derelict site as part of our heritage. It-Teatru L-imwaqqa, has become a place at par with Castille or the President's Palace, an accepted landmark.

From what has been written and said lately by leading figures in both leading political parties it seems that at least there seems to be an agreement on two very important issues, namely that (1) something needs to be done and (2) building the opera house as it was is out of the question. And I cannot but agree more. If we truly want to project these Islands as a leading tourist destination, we cannot accept that such an important site remains in this state. As an artist, I would love to see the site, or part of it, dedicated to a much needed contemporary Arts Museum but what to do with the site we will have time to discuss and debate. At the moment I just wish that our politicians keep their promises and build the site. A well designed building, whatever it houses, will surely be an added element to our cultural heritage.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Colour

It is very difficult to describe the relationship an artist has with his colours. You love them for what they give you but you also hate them for the limitations they impose on you. Gradually throughout my career i found myself treating my colours as if they were humans, or at least as if they were alive. You start talking to them, arguing with them and thanking them for loyally serving you.

This weekend I started reading Bright Earth by Philip Ball. Anyone with a slight interest in the history of colour should read it. The book opens with the following quote:

"Then the man in the blue suit reaches into his pocket and takes out a large sheet of paper, which he carefully unfolds and hands to me. It is covered with Picasso's handwriting -- less spasmodic, more studied than usual. At first sight, it resembles a poem. Twenty or so verses are assembled in a column, surrounded by broad white margins. Each verse is prolonged with a dash, occasionally a very long one. But it is not a poem; it is Picasso's most recent order for colors ....

"For once, all the anonymous heroes of Picasso's palette trooped forth from the shadows, with Permanent White at their head. Each had distinguished himself in some great battle -- the blue period, the rose period, cubism, 'Guernica' ... Each could say: 'I too, I was there ...' And Picasso, reviewing his old comrades-in-arms, gives to each of them a sweep of his pen, a long dash that seems a fraternal salute: 'Welcome Persian red! Welcome emerald green! Cerulean blue, ivory black, cobalt violet, clear and deep, welcome! Welcome!'" -- Brassai (1964), Picasso and Company

Just beautiful.