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Art Discussion Group - Malta


No Time No Space by Anthony Patrick Vella

Anthony P. Vella is a spiritual visionary, a mystic with a deep understanding of interior design coupled with a love of architecture and an acute sense of graphic design. He succeeds to fuse these facets into highly expressive free-standing panels painted in gestural abstraction. Soft spoken, gentle and kind, all smiles and brimming with joy he is immersed in art and design.

His artistic language is eloquent with a lyrical and poetic element and imbued with rhythm and a musical harmony. His dialectic expresses an atmosphere of serenity, tranquillity, placidity and peace. His yearning for contemplation and meditation might spring from an inner well of profound religious conviction with an irresistible attraction for spiritual transcendence.

Whether figurative or abstract he balances forms in space with structural design. ‘There is a slight surface tension similar to that of a sheet of water’. His expression results from actual experience gained on the drawing board during his career as a graphic designer. Line is his specialty.

In the actual collection Anthony has thrown caution to the wind. His works belong to ‘action painting’ a facet of Abstract Expressionism that is calligraphic, basis itself on automated gesture, on the here and now, on spontaneity and improvisation. With wild excitement, the artist puts the rhythms of his body language or movement on to canvas by swirls of paint, dribbling or stippling. It resembles an ecstatic dance which has much in common with jazz. It is a kind of Dionysian impulse though in Anthony it is more Christian than pagan. Anthony is fond of jazz and his experience as a percussionist is reflected in the irregularly shaped works. In the ‘Focolare Movement’ he is known as ‘the drummer’. Anthony expresses his religious fervour through dance, rhythm, music and painting.

His work belongs to the art movement that started after the war led by Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning and Mark Rothko. Rather his art has an affinity with the calligraphic gestures of Pierre Soulage and Hans Hartung. The latter was all praise for Soulage and once said that abstract painting is more infinitely suggestive and complex than Chinese calligraphy which is almost figurative when compared to Latin script. Naturally Hartung believed in the symbolic concept of an abstract language.

As a mystic and visionary Anthony’s role leader is Chiara Lubich and her booket: ‘Here and Now – Meditations on Living in the Present’ is behind his vision and concepts. In the book Chiara states that what really counts ‘is not how much we do but how we do it’. Really Anthony is doing both as he is doing a lot in a short space of time and doing it excellently. Anthony believes in the present, in the present as a continuum: the past becomes present and the present becomes future and therefore time and space are relative to a certain extent.

His installations play with this concept of time and space. They are free-standing screens or ‘paravento’ with linen hanging like curtains behind them for effect. They are a fusion of sculpture and painting but really architectural screens only in theory as their function is decorative. Made of marine plywood Anthony had no qualms of cutting into them, perforating the panels in a way to let through space and light and fixing mirrors to accentuate the suggestion that reality is reflection and reflection reality. He is questioning reality or perhaps reality for Anthony is spiritual bliss, is transcendental joy that has no boundaries.

‘Installation 5’ has no perforations but is characteristic of Anthony’s curvilinear swirls. He might be hinting at various hypotheses that space is a spiral or circular. Whatever the message the work is a development of previous concepts and not a sudden change or transformation. Anthony has never placed a divide between painting and sculpture. His low reliefs in sawdust and gesso bear me out. The subtle earth colours and a predominance of blue reflect Anthony’s tranquil and serene nature. Other abstract paintings hang on the wall in the traditional manner of framed works. But it is action painting all the way.

Anthony’s hallmark is ‘il segno’. He is a draughtsman and the drawing board used to be his altar. Things have changed since his days as a designer and perhaps even his concept and vision of art. But line for him is of vital importance.

Anthony P. Vella was born in Valletta in 1961 and brought up in Republic Street near the premises of the Malta Society of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (MSAMC) where he attended for drawing lessons in his teens (1974-77). His father Michael (1905-67) was a talented clarinet player who played for the King’s Own Band Club in Valletta. Known popularly as Mike he loved jazz and classical music. Anthony lost his father quite early and was lovingly brought up by his mother Rose nee Micallef (1925-2007) lately deceased in May 2007.

In 1988 Anthony married Maria Rita Paterno’ an acquaintance he met on one of his visits to Sicily. They have two children Maria Roberta (1990-) and Simona (1994-). 

Anthony has come a long way. He has come out of his shell with determination and is very expressive, creative and full of hope in what life might offer. His greatest ambition is to share the joy and pleasure with all but especially with those who love art.

E.V. Borg