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Art Discussion Group - Malta


Romantic Visionary by Mario Borg Sillato

Mario is a social realist, a romantic visionary, a mystic, a lover of nature, of life, of animals, of trees. He is concerned and involved with people, with nature, the environment and the earth. His expression is warm, felt and lived. His language, figurative and explicit is universal and quite popular. It is packed with sentiment, with feeling. He lives for art. His art is life.

Mario Borg Sillato (b.1959) is an artist with passion, with a love for the environment, a dog and horse lover and adores his family: his wife Joan and his daughter Krista. His love of nature is so intense that a skink living near his workshop at Ta’ Qali trusts Mario so much that it comes out on his doorstep to be fed by the artist. It is not difficult to appreciate the intensity of his sensitivity and sensibility for nature from his expression: clear, controlled and formal.

‘Reasons to Love the Earth’ is perhaps his most legendary work, if not the most fabulous, pleasant and successful. It was chosen from innumerable entries and shortlisted with those of 1001 artists from all over the world (90 countries) and published in a grand volume: ‘1001 Reasons to Love the Earth’ (The Netherlands 2009 Foundation – Jan. 2002) as a project to celebrate the millennium.

This work is a labour of love. In an elongated vertical rectangle he opens a window on the creation of the world, a Garden of Eden, a paradise or utopia where pristine uncontaminated nature is happiness. Man in this enclave is surrounded by nature’s simple gifts: corn, trees, birds, hills, water, air and earth. It is an idyll where man is not lord and dominates the earth but relates in perfect harmony to the animal world, in perfect symbioses with nature: his ‘Mother’ that suckles and nourishes him.

‘Wood’ evokes a love of family, of open spaces in tranquillity, serenity, silence and peace. The atmosphere is primordial, magical, mythical and mysterious. It gives the feeling of a glowing sunset when the light is golden red or a copper hue. Trees offer the world shelter, afford shade, welcome man and exude happiness – green being a therapeutic force. The leaves articulate and intense are defined, sharp and dynamic. They turn to the light and wallow in its warmth. Mario is an animist.

Mario is a lover of dogs. A lover of animals must love man and life too. His four works depicting dogs are legendary. They are his dogs, some of whom he lost to time. One in particular he missed and mourned for a year, a terrible trauma, a nightmare. The manner he depicts dogs demonstrates his great love for this faithful animal so appreciative of man’s warmth, care and patience. Mario is conscious that a loved dog is a friend forever. One of his intelligent dogs just looked fixedly into his eyes and read his master’s whims, moods and intentions. Eye language with a dog is possible if the relationship is intense. Lovingly Mario depicts dogs being gently washed, brushed and cared for.

Mario is fond of horses too. His works are proof. But perhaps the artist is claustrophobic as his love of open spaces is uppermost and vividly portrayed in most of his subjects set in sea and sky. A good proportion of his collection depicts sea and sky especially ‘Baħar iċ-Ċagħaq’ and other rocky and sandy beaches. A mature woman relishes an idyllic moment with the sea lapping at her feet; a lonely girl on a beach is a romantic echo of the early 1900’s and sentimentally romantic is ‘girl with hat’.

Mario becomes quite sentimental and waxes lyrical when he depicts children. He adores children as in: girls playing with a doll on the beach or the wonderful work of a child innocently playing with sand oblivious of the world around him. Intense are Mario’s nudes. There is dynamic tension in their body, strong and powerful with a delicate silken skin. His portraits of ‘Mother Theresa’ and of an ‘Old Man’ are convincingly real with chiselled and sculpted features and deeply intense in gaze, character and psychic power. They are a paen to human dignity.

With great sensitivity and sensibility Mario scratches or engraves painted wood. His graffito technique is further heightened by ‘chiaroscuro’, by tonal possibilities or in silhouette. He regards his technique as a challenge in order to prove himself with gusto, bravura and virtuosity.

How could an artist with such obvious talent remain relatively unknown, ignored and unsung. It is almost absurd! His love and enthusiasm for life and nature is ensconced and enshrined in his art: the result of sweet melancholy He expresses his joy and pain with such exuberance, in such a bewildering and overwhelming manner that his artistic creativity impinges in a rampant and decisive punch.

E.V. Borg