Click here to edit title

Art Discussion Group - Malta

Personal Reflections on the theme of exhibition - taken from brochure of Ray Piscopo

Through this exhibition, I wanted to express my thoughts and feelings about the wider extensions of poverty. Poverty may be taken to mean the deprivation of something that people need to keep them going in life. If applied to the deprivation of material goods and basic necessities, poverty will certainly lead to physical and mental hard-ships.

The lack of money in hand brought about by unemployment may lead to people needing food, clothing, medicines and other necessary things that may in turn lead to a more sinister mode of living.

We have to understand the root cause of the problem and we should avoid applying labels to people who find themselves in pitiful and inhuman conditions that in civilized countries are anathema to the economical progress the country boasts about.

There is also the more sinister type of poverty that conditions or drives the human being to think that one’s mind is depraved of its faculties. This is brought about by oppression (usually involving violence: physical or mental), deviant practices or outright manipulation of the mind.

The Beggar Boy portrays the extent that a young boy has to go to obtain money or food for himself or for his family as he is forced to beg for alms in the street, rain or shine, so that he can live. He may even be ‘used’ to beg by elders exploiting this defenseless young being into getting them ‘free’ money while they continue to manage other boys in adjacent streets.

Martin The Pigeon Man may be a victim of personal mishaps, constrained to live in the open air, usually in a secluded corner of a public avenue, metro station or alley. Martin may be the you or me of tomorrow who can meet with life’s ups and downs and find ourselves homeless, having to find that speck of bread in the

dustbins and to cover ourselves up with carton, hoping that we will not be doused with acid or being set on fire just for the kick of it.

People do not realize that their desire to live comfortably and enjoy life to the full may require others to suffer and perhaps die working to produce the goods that will satisfy their craving for pleasure. They do not realize that young boys and girls are used in mines handling toxic substances like cadmium (for batteries) and carrying burdens equaling their own weight. 

In The Pits shows three boys resting in a dug-out after a hard days’ work. Many vulnerable children are exploited in this way, enduring the worst kind of torture that should be alien to all children. This is another extension of the meaning of vulnerability brought about by poverty. What are regional conflicts doing to populations? How are they disrupting lives of parents and much more of children? 

The painting Mama? which has been donated to the President of Malta for the Community Chest Fund and is being reproduced here, depicts a common scene in war-torn Syria, and similarly in other areas of conflict. The look in the child’s eye as she gazes at her battered mother, torn to shreds in front of her eyes, brings us down to earth to reflect how lucky we are to be living in a relatively peaceful environment. The child has lost everything that she depended on plus the trauma that will scar her for her life - if she manages to survive the war.

What other remedies are available to young families to safeguard the wellbeing of their offspring and of the older parents in the face of wars and turmoil? Can we, living in what we now term as ‘cosmopolitan countries’ realize what these families are going through and understand, let alone appreciate, their efforts to leave their homes, walk miles, battle waves two meters high as they cross the seas in dingy rafts, just to save their young ones or hope for a better future? Do we see these migrants as pests invading our garden and eating our fruits? Can we ever understand that the poor that Jesus spoke about can also be the good souls whose only immediate need is to flee death looking them in the face? So why are the unfortunate people seen in Let My People Go despised by populist regimes? How has it become acceptable, and for some agreeable, that these new dictators tell their followers that migrants are unwanted pests, feeding off the fruits that should not be shared? This boggles the mind and it seems humanity is not thinking or even moving straight as it should.

Mea Culpa applies to the anguish of people who recognize that their wrongdoing is causing people to suffer. But is this just a brief feeling to liberate themselves from the hurt they have caused others?

You Say Yes and I say No may perhaps remind you of a Beatle song. Well yes, but then it’s a title which highlights the stark contrast between the notion of a peaceful home and the reality of domestic violence. This is the worst kind of conflict, it usually includes both physical and mental violence, and the majority of victims are women and children. What could be worse? Perhaps such vicious situations existed before but I feel that whereas victims used to suffer in silence, maybe even sacrificing their life, social media has brought the issue of domestic violence to the attention of the world’s press and the forefront of public debate. This painting shows the stark nakedness of this violence, now common in many families leaving victims physically and mentally marked for life. Yet the perpetrators get off scot free for some reason or other escape clause. This painting is dedicated to those female and child victims.

You Cannot Change Destiny is another painting that shows the bare reality of facing insurmountable walls and ten meter-high waves. Many people are driven into desperation because they do not see a way out of their current situation. There are serious impediments and challenges and it is the time when every muscle and tendon in the body cringes and tries to close upon itself like a porcupine closing its sharp armour to fend off trouble or attackers. This is where mere mortals become so vulnerable and defenseless that they want nobody else to try and pierce their fragile protection, flimsy and fragile as it is.

Breaking Out represents a bolder type of person who assesses their personal situation decides that whatever the odds they are ready to face life and break free from the shackles that are keeping them constrained in a suffocating environment.

However, there may be others that totally have given up any hope of getting back on top and decide that life is no longer viable for them. Deep in the Water may portray a woman who is somehow in the water after a night partying and who decided to jump in the pool, but it may as well be that fragile person who decided that life has no more meaning for her.

No Good in Goodbyes and Beyond Words portray a more personal situation where a person mourns the loss of a loved one. The scenarios can be varied but it shows that such situations are common and if not handled well may lead to more sad outcomes.

Humility is a painting that I was inspired to do after seeing the humble, tender moment when His Holiness Pope Frances stopped to speak to a child who was present at one of his audiences. Humility is being poor in pride. It fits in well with the theme of being poor.

The last painting I wish to comment on is Follow The Light. I feel that this painting encapsulates the main sentiment of this section of my exhibited paintings. I have included this painting in the hope that whoever is afflicted by some mishap or adverse situation realizes that there is light at the end of the tunnel and that there is hope for those who seek the light. I have seen poor people and people suffering from ailments and unhappy situations that despite their unhappy situation comport themselves as if they are immune to hurt or trouble. It is because they have built up hope and courage and look forward to a brighter future.

Ray Piscopo

19 September 2018



Mob: +357 79473801