Since its establishment 15 years ago, China Cultural Centre in Malta (CCC) has been consistent in its aim to promote mutual friendship and appreciation between the peoples of China and Malta. The annual China Creative Art Project Trip and subsequent participation in Inspired in China –Fine Art Exhibition by Maltese Artists, is one of the measures which CCC implements to honour and realize objectives upheld by the Governments of both countries to support exchange initiatives appertaining to culture, tourism, art and education, amidst other sectors.
Inspired in China pursues CCC’s aspirations to develop mutually beneficial cooperation between Chinese and Maltese artists and art experts. Moreover, it seeks to portray the real face of China through the eyes of Maltese artists, transforming their trip into a journey of discovery and creative impetus, which captures impressions and perceptions of China’s national, ethnic, regional and ecological specialties, from timeless traditions to priceless intangible and natural heritage; spellbinding landscapes and seamless co-existence of antiquity and modernity.
Over the past six years, several representatives of Malta’s flourishing art world have participated in this annual project, including the exhibition’s long-standing curator, Mr E.V. Borg. Under the auspices of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of China, and recommendation of local partnering arts organizations, in 2018 CCC selected four accomplished artists: Debbie Bonello, Andrew Borg, Damian Ebejer and Lucienne Spiteri, inviting them to visit China’s coastal province of Fujian - the time-honoured birthplace of the ancient Maritime Silk Road, world-renowned for the far-reaching influence of seafaring trade, verdant scenery, sophisticated tea culture and cultivation.
This dedicated collection of Maltese artworks nurtures dialogue, understanding and enduring friendship between the people of China and Malta, and the wider world.
A dark night sky is space for twinkling stars, silence is the space for music,a blue sky is the space for sailing floating, clouds while canvas is the space for painting. Painting is how to fill a space. Silence is music, the most wonderful of feelings. An artist can create silence, solitude, peace and tranquillity. Painting can become pure music or poetry. Our participants have tried with success to achieve such sentiments through their expression.
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Their acute observations are fixed in memory and assimilated. In a maturing process assimilation leads to reflection
and interpretation that stimulates imagination
and fantasy. Creativity and expression leads to growth.The
character captured in facial features is a rich language of fleeting
emotions, sentiments and feelings of
and sensibility. It is exploited by the artists in a
figurative or abstract vision or concept according
to their individual identity.
Debbie Bonello’s work is characterized by what she terms ‘loose brushstrokes’ which in reality are forceful, energetic, vigorous and dynamic strokes that convey an élan vital and joie de vivre.The source of her expressionistic tendencies is probably Impressionism. Her landscapes convey a sense of space, of location, mood and atmosphere and demonstrate her love for en plein-air painting: studies of sky, clouds, vast stretches of water and open spaces. Her collection inspired by Fujian breathes a sense of freshness and actuality and perhaps points to an evolving idiom towards abstraction. After the composition is carefully chosen the execution becomes spontaneous and free: feeling, emotion and sentiment overflow. The source of her work grows from the seed sown by Pissarro, the contagious atmosphere is that of Turner, and the slightly nostalgic and romantic-tragic melancholy might have its origin in the works of Rouault. ‘Smile’, ‘Only Child’, ‘Respect’ and ‘Spiritual Vortex’ that treat old age, human sentiments and predicaments are an essay in social realism. Her work is a kind of reportage, a diary documenting her travels with an assiduity and verve that exposes her enthusiasm and involvement.
Andrew Borg shows an earnest endeavor to inject emotion in his creative compositions and to break away from his technical competence. In reality he fuses both. His oil paintings are executed en plein-air or in the studio. Location does not seem that important but he is interested in conveying a detail or part to transform reality into an impression and the impression into an abstract concept that at times reaches surreal proportions. He uses the traditional painting technique to produce contemporary concepts. The brush strokes are expressionistic and vigorous in contrast to large spaces or ‘larghezza’ in soft films of paint applied thinly but evenly. He loves texture, shapes and exploiting space. At times only a small proportion of what the eye sees is presented to suggest rather than evoke resemblance to the scene thus stimulating in the viewer fantasy and imagination. His work might be called minimalist. Andrew Borg loves vast empty spaces using light, colour, line, shape and form. His strength is his drawing and design. In a recent personal exhibition Andrew dedicated the catalogue to ‘Sunshine, My Muse’. This demonstrates that his inspiration is light, and naturally shadow. In‘Struggle’, in dynamic brush strokes, inspired by canes or reeds he unconsciously acknowledges the vigour of Soulages’ and Kline’s graphic abstract concepts. In ‘Moonrise’ and ‘The Forest’ he demonstrates his love for nature and implicitly the studies of Leonardo’s botanic genius. There is no doubt however that his most successful piece is ‘18 Days in China’ a flaming bright red stripe in stygian darkness. Andrew’s abstract qualities show intense sensitivity and sensibility as he metamorphoses figurative natural images into abstraction.
Damian Ebejer’s work is essentially abstract in concept. As he himself declares he is interested in both its physical and spiritual forms. Being an introvert his art is generally about the world inside him. His abstract expressionism is at times implicit and on other occasions explicit. He states: ‘I am not me; I am what I create. I persist in a constant discovery of myself. I search for a collective beauty entangled to the ugly and chaotic in order to compose a subconscious recognition of fascinating order’. In China, he acted differently and he painted the visual reality he captured with his naked eye. Yet the mind’s eye is ever so pronounced. His minimalism is geometric abstraction such as ‘Linear Space at Lou Young Bridge’. In effect this image is metaphysical, a contrast between a romantic sky as in Constable and purely geometric forms to represent the bridge. The only details that detract from abstraction are certain architectural features so vernacularly traditional in Chinese buildings. His works convey mood and atmosphere of feelings, sentiments and emotions that recall and record that he was present, that he was there. ‘Ariel Abstract of Tulon Cluster’ and ‘Just another Brick in a Chinese Wall’ are both geometric abstracts, finely meticulous. The former is an interpretation of an enormous oval building for collective living as expressed in six domino pieces. The latter is a formal, linear, disciplined and unemotional hard-edge creation. Impeccable and clean, it is an exercise in optical illusion. ‘Moored onto Quietness’ is an abstraction of beached canoes or boats. The atmosphere created is that of quiet and peaceful contemplation stimulating peace and rest. In several of his works Damian attempts to create vast spaces where the eye can roam in misty depth and distance. Empty space or the void is abstraction that can induce a sense of therapy, peace and rest. Damian is overwhelmed by the cosmic beauty of nature and in ‘Early Morning Light’ he creates an atmosphere of stupendous romantic and sentimental beauty, a spiritual up-lifting that transcends material wealth. For Damian, tranquility serenity and peace are beauty. A pair of ‘Rampant Dragons’ on gold plinths is purely figurative but its symbolic meaning surfaces in its form of hanging banner, tapestry or arras. A fast-hand sixty seconds sketched wash emphasizes his various approaches to expression and to creating texture.
Lucienne Spiteri focuses mainly on working women though she hardly ignores their counterpart: men. Perhaps her most intimate, expressive and vital images are of female musicians playing on vernacular stringed instruments dressed in rich iridescent satin or silk. The expressive quality of her works is highly emotional. She captures their concentration and total involvement.The male worker in dark blue in a tobacco field is set against a saturated verdant green background while ‘Woman in Yellow Shirt’ is impressively colourful, with colour used as an end in itself. In her photography section Lucienne captures in ‘The Tea Ceremony’ the rapt concentration, the delicacy, the demure application of a woman in a yellow silk blouse while in ‘Street Food' the saleswoman is completely engrossed in her work and delicately and gently displays food with her rubber gloved hand. ‘In Wuyi Mountains’, ‘Wuyishan’ and ‘Jade Girl Peak’ Lucienne abandons canon and rules to experiment with Chinese tea leaves and Chinese ink to create impressive images of mountains as represented in classic and traditional Chinese painting in ink and wash sealed in resin. The work by Lucienne is mainly inspired by tobacco and tea workers toiling in the fields, by fishermen fishing with nets and women on their way to catch fish but focuses on character. A perfect example is the ‘Old Lady from Taxia Village – Zhangzhou’ with a wrinkled face and crabbed old look that expresses a hard outdoor working life. The woman is caught in the lens descending the stairs set against a cyclopean wall. Lucienne’s approach to her work demonstrates total constant, persistent and insistent application with striking results.
E. V. BorgCurator and art critic