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Art Discussion Group - Malta


George Scicluna - Power and Passion

 at the La Vallette V.I.P. Lounge – Malta International Airport

The struggle has vanished! Or is it only an impression, a false perception? In the art of George Scicluna nothing is completely factual. But passion and power are explicit and the determination the artist shows in his portrait photograph on the cover is only a screen to hide his scrupulous indecision, his infinite search for the meaning in art, in life. 

He ponders and probes incessantly though he is aware that there are no quick answers to myriad questions asked; no fixed solutions to problems tackled. And the paradox follows: ‘Art is a perfect set of rules that in reality do not exist’.

Does reality exist? George tackles this problem in a series of still life that are almost overwhelmingly formidable in their neo-realism, in their modelled, sculptural tridimensional quality, in their tangible forceful nature, in their existence in self. 

For George these ‘compositions’ are a game in bravura, in virtuosity. And their reality, as tangible objects in space is undisputed. But on futher reflection one discovers that almost tongue-in-cheek George placed the fruit and geometric objects or forms as if they were people posing for a photograph. 

There is nothing natural in the set-up. The composition is rethorical, it is posed, unreal, surreal, theatrical as on a stage.

He pretends that each work is an academic exercise of classical proportions, with an eye to accuracy, with a tangible cubist twist and imbued with Cezanne’s determination towards permanence. 

But how permanent could a canvas be? Hence the illusion and disillusion and therefore the struggle to understand why Plato called art a ‘lie’. Because it’s not true, not real, but fiction! 

In ‘Composition with Orange’  reality becomes surreal when the orange is metamorphosed into an apple, in the shadow cast on the wall behind it! On the catalogue cover the artist’s photographic portrait is set against a painted skyline of the Cittadella with the  photographed bastioned medina forming a backdrop scenario. 

The painting is a ‘lie’ and the skyline is real or a photographic copy of reality. Art is three times removed from reality: the photographed portrait, the painted skyline and the photograph of the citadel.

‘Composition with Fruit’ is characteristic of the series. Saturated in light it is more of a Caravaggio piece than a studied academic still life. The ‘Seven-Up’ bottle is a museum piece in its monumentality and vigour rather than a commercial advertisment to attract or convince consumers. 

The artist chooses to paint the object not to trivialise art as in POP by Jasper Johns (Ale Cans, 1964), Andy Warhol (Green Coca-Cola Bottles, 1962) or  Wolf  Wostel (Coca-Cola, 1961) but for an entirely different scope. In George’s case art is vital as it is his life, his whole being and he wants to metamorphose his experience into a permanent expression, into works that one day will hang in museums as tangible proof of his existence. Perhaps this determination emanates from the fear of fear of losing life through death.

In the series of wall facades George chooses not to chose a subject. These facades of old houses are a study of stained masonry with pointing around the globigerina blocks. Without doors and windows they become blank surfaces transformed by the artist into colourful brush strokes that revolve with dynamic force. George is the result of his environment. A wall becomes a monumental subject for study and research and as Leonardo once remarked: a stain on the wall is the subject of art.

His large abstract piece is the artist’s dark side. It might be a sunset packed with premonition, with anxiety as one day in man’s journey is life’s journey. 

And since we are born with the rising sun, we die with the setting sun. Oblivious that we are reborn the next day sunset induces a sweet melancholy, a tragic pathos that fills us with fear of darkness, of death.

This fear is expressed in the ‘Thinker of Rodin’. This is George’s true mettle: ‘struggle, power and passion’.  Since man is able to think, he reflects on existence, on the ephemeral and transient nature of life. He evaluates. 

This abilty to choose forces him to balance good and evil, love and hate, life and death. The struggle to choose is painful. It is tragic hence ‘the thinker’ is in shrouds, like Lazarus. 

Man’s fear makes him die a thousand times. He is alive but already sealed in a grave. The curvaceous lines or bandages are a straitjacket that he strives to break loose from, to escape from bondage: towards his resurrection as he has chosen life not death, love not hate, peace not war, good not evil.

George Scicluna was born in Victoria, Gozo, Malta in 1966. His frugal childhood induced an acute precocity that his work amply projects. In 1982 he successfully concluded with distinction a course in graphic design. Later he attended an art course at the Malta School of Art. In 1989 and 1990 he followed courses at the Accademia di Belle Arti in Perugia, Italy. George participated in several competitions and won various prizes. 

In 1996 he won first prize in a competition organised by the Brussels-based Demo-Christian Foundation Robert Schumann. He also organised four personal exhibitions in Gozo between 1998 and 2004 and participated in an exhibition with Peter Howson, an artist of international stature in Scotland in 2006. In 2011 the artist published: George Scicluna- Paintings (1985-2011) a volume compiled by E. V. Borg that covers his exhibitions and career as artist. George is a powerful expressionist who articulates his inner conflict with passion and without fear. 

He expresses the ‘terribilita’ of life’s tragedy with a sense of drama and a feeling of grandeur. With great determination and courage he struggles against opposing forces and flings into the void, leaps into the unknown as in art like life we are always alone and there are no answers.

E. V. Borg

23. 05. 2012