Pain that is laid bare

This artice by Goeffrey Attard was published as an art opinion piece on Times of Malta, to commemorate the launching of the 10th edition of “Il-Ħaġar Gems Series ”

Il-Ħaġar Gems Series No. 10
by George Scicluna, 
edited by Joseph Borg & Maria Frendo

“Pain is God’s megaphone to rouse a deaf world”. This is what renowned British author C. S. Lewis of Narnia fame wrote in his famous book The Problem of Pain and this is what came to mind as I visited Il-Ħaġar Museum in Victoria (Gozo) for the inauguration of George Scicluna’s exhibition PAINtings.

The choice of the name for the present exhibition has a history of its own.  Scicluna, together with our common friend and fellow painter Aaron Formosa and myself, were visiting Venice for a short holiday and both friends wanted to make the best of the time we had together by visiting as many art galleries as possible.

Back in the hotel at night-time, the discussions focused on the various painters and portraits we had seen on the day. We reflected on the first four letters of the word ‘painting’ coming to the conclusion that one cannot create a painting without first going through the experience of pain.

Scicluna’s philosophical outlook on life is reflected in the paintings that are featured in the present exhibition. This comes out clearly in Mgr Joseph Farrugia’s foreword to the publication that accompanies the exhibition when he refers to the painter’s “never-ending philosophical discussions”.

Scicluna’s paintings are fascinating. He is able to immortalise particular moments in time and space in such a way that they become iconic.  Even his most intimate paintings are inviting in such a way that the spectator feels that he is part of it himself. There is a vibrant intimacy in Scicluna’s paintings.

The beholder is hooked without being harmed and transported to the very moment so brilliantly captured in the particular painting. His Before the Procession presents a quasi-playful and decidedly joyful scene which is a distinct feature of the proceedings; the same can be said for his Celebrating St George’s Feast and the more profane Inland Sea Dwejra Gozo.

In his penetrating foreword, Mgr Farrugia clearly states PAINtings presents us “with a case where knowing the artist allows a deeper insight into his art”. In fact, some of the individuals appearing in these paintings are so vividly presented that the paintings radiate a life of their own. 

In his exhaustive presentation, art critic E. V. Borg concludes that “although autobiographical, the work has a universal and cosmic dimension”. The fact that some of the paintings feature different places in Victoria and in Gozo endears in no small measure our painter with the local community.  However, Scicluna’s ‘universal’ dimension is not to be underestimated. 

PAINtings reveals Scicluna’s dynamism at its fiercest, impacting the senses without alienating the spirit.  This is due to the ‘paradox and polarity’ that characterise most of his works. 

This is another de luxe publication in the series, a glowing testimony to the brilliance of the artist and a trademark of the high standard achieved at Il-Ħaġar Museum and Cultural Centre at the heart of Victoria.

Christmas Concerts

Il-Ħaġar museumkept to its custom of presenting concertinos also during this festive season.

The first instrumental and vocal recital, “Christmas Charm”, was held recently. It featured two sisters, accompanied by pianist Francis Camilleri. Valentina Rapa performed works on her saxophone alto, followed by soprano Antonella Rapa.

Festive activities at Il-Ħaġar Museum, in Victoria, continued with a concert of Christmas carols by a group of choristers from the Laudate Pueri Choir, under the direction of George J. Frendo and leader Maria Frendo. Titled “Gloria in Excelsis”, the concertino featured carols and motets arranged for four female voices by David Willcocks and Joseph Vella.

The concerts were supported by the Gozo Ministry’s cultural heritage directorate.

Photos by Charles Spiteri

‘Privileged Outcasts’

‘The Privileged Outcasts’ – the title of a ‘pasturi’ (crib statuettes) exhibition held over Christmas period at il-Hagar -, refers to the shepherds who were considered as inferior members of society. However, they were the first privileged to be given the news of the birth of Jesus.

Works by pasturi artists Lino Fardell, of Żejtun, and Carmelo Agius, of Pietà, both deceased, are being exhibited.

There are also creations in clay and papier-mâché by Agius’s son Joe and the late Manuel Axiak, of Tarxien. Figurines, modelled in Maltese raw clay in the 19th century, were also on show.

Carmelo, George and Saviour Farrugia – sons of the late renowned Gozitan artist Lorenzo – are also represented.

Gozitan Joe Camilleri, with his terracottas, and Paul Buttigieg, of Lija and who moulds pasturi in wax, also have works on display.

The pasturi come from the collection of George Cassar.

As part of this exhibition, the museum also set up a traditional crib by Carmel Farrugia.

This exhibition was part of the Christmas activities organized at the museum, and was supported by the Gozo Ministry’s Cultural Heritage Directorate.

Photos by Charles Spiteri

The Place-Names of Gozo by Simon Salafia- Vol. 1

On the 23rd of January 2020, il-Hagar Museum hosted another book launch, this time by Maltese researcher Simon Salafia. The “Place Names of Gozo” is the title of a volume which presents the results of Salafia’s long-time efforts to collect place names in Gozo.

A graduate in electrical engineering, Salafia has widened his interests to languages and historical research.

These well-nigh six hundred pages offer over nine thousand toponyms – also classified according to locality – through the perusal of an impressive range of sources. Details of the locations and descriptions are included.

The event was introduced by Dr Paul G Pisani.

Vintage Love Cards

Over January and Febuary, an exhibition of vintage lovers’ cards by the Gozo Philatelic Society was on display in our philatelic showcase.

The exhibits are mostly from the World War I period featuring mostly servicemen. The cards are mainly hand-coloured with a few having gilding decorations. Examples include one card chronographed in Berlin by Raphael Tuck and others produced by Dresden’s Stengel and Platine Noyer in Paris.

Being 100 years old, the cards are of special significance to people who research social aspects.

The exhibition has also been featured on the national newspaper Times of Malta

photos by Charles Spiteri