Artist Fabio Borg does not just paint Maltese streetscapes because he sees the beauty in them, he paints to capture what he believes is slowly deminishing, piece by piece and stone by stone.
A recurring subject in his works on canvas – the Maltese gallarija– is, to him, a symbol of the Malta he loves. The title of his latest solo exhibition, ‘Revisited Memories’, is a nod to the artist’s returning to his central childhood hometown. Of course, the the Sliema and Gzira area is not quite what it used to be, and many a gallarija has been extracted over the years to make way for a cold glass balcony.
Nowadays, Borg resides in Mosta with his family, an altogether more intact district when it comes to architecture. He often turns to vignettes from his hometown and similarly quaint localities for inspiration- a view of a Birgu Street from a window on Good Friday being one of the standout pieces from the exhibition. The canvas diptych was brought to life last year during Malta’s initial lockdown. A man of faith, the scene of a two-priest procession moved the artist immensely. The sombre scene as seen from a first floor vantage point, the painting takes on an almost Lowry-like effect, albeit a very southern Mediterranean one, as opposed to the bleak industrial scenery of Northern England.
When he’s not painting streetscapes or zoning in on beloved Maltese architectural features such as the wrought iron railings of a townhouse, glossy painted louvres or the majestic dome of his town’s famous church, Borg takes inspiration from the Maltese countryside. It is the countryside that Borg worries about most when it comes to overdevelopment, and when he paints his rugged wintery scenes, he’s making a point of his views on the matter. Borg’s concern is that we are paving our limited countryside in concrete to make way for soulless blocks of flats. In his painterly style, he proceeds with a subtle activism. Without openly criticising the permits given to build such structures on virgin land, Borg makes his opinion clear, seen and silently heard on his canvases.
The exhibition, which will run until the 17th of March at DESKO Gallery in Valletta is unusually conservative for the small contemporary space. The impressionist collection of twenty-six paintings are a welcome return to realism, interestingly coenciding with artist Anna Calleja’s brilliant exposee at Malta Society of Arts. There is some comfort in traditional painterly techniques which in today’s uncertain times mean we cannot revisit by travelling to our city-break destination of choice. Whilst we have the opportunity to do so, soaking up as much of what our Capital City has to offer will rekindle that unmistakable inspiring feeling of visiting a museum or an art gallery.
Fabio Borg’s solo exhibition ‘Revisited Memories’ is not outspoken. What it is is a tentative impressionist documentation of Malta’s beauty, both natural and manmade. When there is not much positivity going around, the works on show, as seen through the eyes of their creator, will leave you contemplative. They will remind you to see the beauty and appreciate the aesthetics of our islands, and the importance of preserving it at all costs.