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Art Discussion Group - Malta




A bold neo-realist John Vic Borg (1971- ) presents a figurative, tangible and solid reality. Possibly like Gustave Courbet, he believes that painting ‘is essentially concrete and cannot but represent real and solid objects’. He relies exclusively on the perception of the senses and therefore equates reality with perception. He exploits his talent for portraiture to give an almost photographic, figurative and representatively human and humane reality astounding in its veracity.

He captures protagonist, atmosphere, mood and place with such impressive vitality, but at the same time with deep compassion and understanding, meticulously rendering the harsh and frugal reality of man’s vicissitudes. His nuances of light and shade and his contrasts in ‘chiaroscuro’ demonstrate his indebtedness to the masters. His brand of photographic realism, meticulous, incisive and defined transforms his subjects into palpable and tangible actuality.

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. In a recent work he celebrates our local stone, our soft ‘globigerina’. He becomes so obsessed with its honey colour and sensual properties that he treats it with such loving care and reverence that it seems that his own blood transfusion flows freely into its capillaries.

John has changed palette in his ‘Brush Strokes’ collection choosing warm colours and a challenging subject: the human form saturated in light. Most of his works depict girls with their pets. In reality they are portraits that seem to recall the British School of painting with particular reference to Gainsborough. John reverts to monochrome and shows great bravura in his portrait of a boy holding a duck. In another instance the monochromatic face of a girl is branded by streaks of light filtering through a blind – the effect is overwhelming as it resembles a chiaroscuro photograph by a master. In the frontal volumetric face of a girl in modelled colour the result is very romantic and sentimental.

In his wanderings in Guizhou, China John was inspired by actuality. Walled towns and old villages, lanterns swinging in the breeze, sculpted dragons and masks, precious jade, the pungent smell of spices and herbs, rice fields and tea in abundance, a karst eroded landscape quaint and strange with conical mountains, and hills covered by luscious vegetation as far as the eye can see.

The feelings, emotions and moods that this panorama of lakes, rivers, waterfalls, caves and dizzy cliffs and slopes, with steps, and more steps to reach one belvedere more higher and beautiful than the other, was what inspired and stimulated John in depicting village children playing, not conscious of lookers-on. In these works the artist shows deep compassion and understanding of the human psyche. His involvement is total after deep observation and concentration, transforming experience into expression, through assimilation, consolidation and final interpretation. This journey has helped John to grow and mature as a man and as an artist.

His obsession to capture reality became more emphatic on his return to the small confines of his native land. His recent works depict doors with peeling and flaking paint, with the texture of old grained deteriorated wood, locks, keyholes, bolts and old vernacular knockers. The subject stimulates his fantasy and imagination as from figurative he evolves to abstract expression and back to high definition photographic realism.

His great sensitivity and sensibility captures wild poppies with velvet seductive petals in warm reds and striking bold black stamens and bulbous seed boxes or runs wild in capturing gorgeous sunflowers in the powerful, textured idiom of van Gogh. With his deep love for Mellieħa he depicts in stark realism an idyllic corner of the ‘Knisja tal-Għar’, its baroque bell-tower, the trees, the volutes and spherical finial as restored to its pristine beauty by Manuel Cini, is captured and sealed in the campo santo conceived by our religious forefathers. This beautiful tondo reaches a high level of artistic bravura and virtuosity.

John’s passionate persistence, insistence and consistence will surely bear fruit and his future beckons towards great fulfilment and satisfaction.

E. V. Borg

Curator & art critic



Bio Data

John with a sensitive eye for delicate nuances of light was born in Mellieħa, Malta in 1971. At the age of 9 months he was taken to Australia by his parents. Ever since he started walking he was always found with pencil and paper in hand drawing whatever came to mind. When his parents returned to Malta, he found it very hard to adjust at first but fortunately he always found time to escape to another world through drawing. Such talent would help him spend every free moment sketching bringing his imagination to life. It was during these years at school that his primary teacher Alfred Vella encouraged him to take art seriously and arranged for John to start attending private lessons with the Mosta artist Doris Fenech. At the age of 10 he used oil paint on canvas for the first time and quickly fell in love with the medium and has not stopped using it since then.  Oil paint gives him a feeling of freedom to blend colours as he pleases as they remain crisp, sharp and vibrant without losing their texture. No matter how many years roll by a well-kept painting will still look fresh as if it has just left the artist’s hands. In 1983 he returned to Australia with his parents where he furthered his art studies guided by several artists till he turned 18 and decided to come back to his birthplace: Mellieha. Since his return to Malta he has participated in a number of collective and solo exhibitions. In a particular collective exhibition organized by the Malta Society of Arts in Valletta to celebrate its 150th Anniversary (2002) his painting was chosen among a large number of works by other established artists and shown at the Malta Museum of Fine Arts. A number of his paintings were acquired by private collectors in several countries and are found in collections in Australia, England, Germany, Romania, Cyprus, Morocco, Dubai, Ireland, Italy, Malta and the Vatican. John actually lives in Mellieha with his family where he enjoys days in plein air in the countryside painting a beautiful array of colour tonalities that the Maltese landscape offers. In the last 5 years (prior to 2017) he started painting with chocolate that as a medium is quite a challenge and quite different from painting in oil.

I have curated several exhibitions by John Vic Borg. Recently in 2017-18, he was chosen by the China Cultural Centre to take part in ‘Inspired in China’, a collective exhibition presented to the public after an actual travel experience in China. His figurative art and delicate portraits are regarded highly in local art circles.


Curator & art critic

April 2019.

Personal Exhibitions:

2006 Il-Kastell, Tarxien

2007 Choir & Orchestra Maria Bambina Club, Mellieha

2009 Andenau, Germany

2013 La Vittoria Band Club, Mellieha

2015 Waterfront, Valletta

2015 Cavalieri Art Hotel, St. Julian

2016 La Valette VIP Club Lounge, MIA

2016 SkyParks Business Centre, MIA

2017 Corinthia Hotel, Attard

2018 SkyParks Business Centre, MIA

2019 Razzett tal-Karkiż Mallia Tabone, Mosta