Pain that is laid bare Exhibition Critique

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.