Step by Step An Art Exhibition
Step by Step’ is a journey through space and time ascending upwards on steps that lead to change and growth through experience. Focused on light and shadow its sister, John is obsessed by the theme or perhaps has a contagious fixation or tryst while researching a contrast of light and shade, of light and shadow, of light and darkness. John loves light falling on stone, rock and boulders, on carved stone by expert ‘scarpellini’, on grass, plants, shrubs and trees and expresses his feelings and emotions in a neo-realist and almost surreal concept of life as interpreted by an acute imagination, sensual fantasy and a sharp linear definition as an engraving on copper.
John is obsessed by light falling on boulders, on rocks: a vibrant, blazing and at times blinding light, a saturated, strong or mitigated one but keen on its sensitive nuances that his trained sensible nature captures to create an acute sense of actuality, a surreal reality, a mood that could be magical, mysterious, enigmatic or mundane according to choice.
The artist loves shade and shadow especially strong deep shadow that seems Stygian black but in reality is dark Prussian blue as in ‘Bastion Steps’ (20). This sensual shadow is strikingly present in ‘Olive Trees’ (2014), a grove of old gnarled and distorted trees and in ‘Heavenly Presence’ (2013) with shafts or rays of light penetrating the shadows under tall beech trees. The mood is poetic!
‘Step by Step’ is a collection of meticulously clean works, almost clinical in concept that reveals the artist’s research and study about the subject though the theme is hardly the main aim or scope. It serves only as a means to an end: an urge to create through an intensive concentrated effort a bid to surpass, outshine and overwhelm himself.
In ‘Hidden Passage’ (04) he bewilders the viewer with a study of boulders and rock, with light that caresses and tickles the stone, chiselling it into shape and form, rounded and solid and animating it with spirit, with a soul. In a bid to deceive the eye he creates an optical illusion of space using both linear and tonal perspective in depicting a few rough steps that end against an impenetrable rock face as quite usual in actual life How many times man faces insurmountable problems, a blank wall? The grass in the foreground with light transforming the green blades into yellow, the dark blue shadow, hanging thick leaves in the left top corner elevate this work into a museum piece. The bone dry rock is in contrast to the lush, damp grass and deep moist shadow. If in other works especially those depicting the ruined Opera House the artist achieves a sense of technical bravura and virtuosity in ‘Hidden Passage’ he obtains a sense of creative achievement.
‘Step by Step’ (08) and ‘One Step at a Time’ (09) are lyrical and poetic in their acute realism and natural dispersion of brown dry leaves that are symbolic of changing season, of life trickling away. The acute simplicity of the compositions and the humble choice of subject contribute to the excellence of both works. The eroded step in ‘One Step at a Time’ rounded smooth by constant friction underlines the futility of life, that physical matter wears away and with time is distilled into pure energy.
In ‘Mind your Step’ (03) the artist achieves a magical and mysterious quality with an overwhelming, trembling, shivering, vibrating, oscillating and dancing light that plays and gambols, that rises and falls like a waterfall continuously, uninterruptedly, endlessly. It is possibly the most magical work in the collection as the viewer feels the sun’s position changing and accordingly light and shadow.
‘Monumental Steps’ (15), one of a series depicting the sad ruins of the Opera House in Valletta, is outstanding in its plasticity, in the crisp and fresh rendering of carving in white granite. The sculptural decoration is a gigantic console deceptively buttressing a vermiculated wall flanking a kind of ‘scala regia’ – a flight of steps. What loving detail in the lush acanthus leaf, in a thick and sensual Roman garland or in a dado and base of a column in ‘Left in Ruins’ (14) and the desolate stump of a column with the delicate moulding of a door jamb behind it in ‘Left in Ruins 2’ (02). It is a nostalgic expression of a local treasure that our people might never savour again.
Impossible to ignore completely the irregular geometric dark shadow cast by wrought iron railings in ‘Bastion Steps’ (20) and in ‘Bridge Stairs’ (19) close to Victoria Gate for its documentary allusion to our industrial history during British Malta.
Quite outstanding is ‘Man’s first Step’ (01) at Ta’ Hagrat in Mgarr with such eloquent monumental monoliths that speak volumes about our prehistoric predecessors and their artistic acumen. Impossible to ignore ‘Eroded by Time’ (02) in its simplicity, in its contrast and comparison of a constructed wall on bare cut rock.
The collection is about the journey in life, about steps, steps that reach upwards, that we take one at a time during our life – cautiously, prudently, carefully quenching our thirst on first-hand experience that spells change and growth and perhaps are the ‘Gateway to Heaven’ (07) fumbling in a dark ominous tunnel with a beckoning transcendental light at the end: our yearning for the infinite and the eternal.
This is the 7th exhibition curated by Mr. Emanuel V Borg exhibited at SkyParks. Artists are given the opportunity to exhibit their work within the building on a quarterly basis. The next exhibition is available for viewing until mid- April.
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