by Silvio John Camilleri
Exhibition Curator: Dr. Christian Attard
Behind the walls of the serene Mdina one may currently visit an art exhibition which focuses on equally still locations. ‘Ħarbaħolma – Images of a Wistful Escape’ is Silvio John Camilleri’s first solo exhibition, which features different landscape interpretations by the artist.
Silvio John started attending the Malta Government School of Art in the late 1990s and following a break of some years while reading for a doctoral degree in finance, he resumed classes at the Malta Society of Arts in 2007. Camilleri uses various media such as acrylics and inks, in addition to pencils and ordinary ballpoint pens which he considers as the most practical media to sketch whilst ‘on the go’.
Although the artist is intrigued by urban landscapes, in this collection he chose to focus on locations where the rural environment comes across man-made interventions. In particular, Silvio John focused on his immediate surroundings where the mundane seems to acquire an aura of reverence, similar to personal experiences treasured in a diary.
In the artist’s words:
“Despite that I consider them as ordinary settings, these landscapes are strikingly different from the urban context which we are persistently surrounded by. In this sense, such works may be interpreted as escapist – hence the title of the exhibition. Using high-sounding terminology one may possibly label this series of works as a form of liberation or a catharsis from contemporary routine”.
Most works on display were painted in acrylics, with the exception of two etchings which feature the whereabouts of Wied iż-Żurrieq – as is the case with a substantial number of other works.
On a technical level, one may denote the different approaches evident in this collection. The smaller-sized works are probably more spontaneous and treated in a sketch-like manner. In the rest of the works the approach varies from vigorous renditions with prominent brushstrokes to more traditionally-inspired interpretations. In particular cases, the landscape of Wied Babu is simplified to a point where it verges on the abstraction.
‘Ħarbaħolma – Images of a Wistful Escape’ is being curated by the art historian Dr. Christian Attard. In the twelve-page catalogue accompanying the exhibition, the Curator introduces these works as follows:
“In this collection of images, Silvio John finds nurturing solace in the representation of either time-forgotten nooks, or else, conversely, in places overlooked because of over-familiarity. There is a quest for a simple beauty, for a nature unspoilt in these images that one might start wondering whether this is solely the result of an aching nostalgia rather than the result of hard, factual observation. As a matter of fact, these images record places that do exist, and even if one might think otherwise, they reassure us that if we were to stop and look close enough, with open hearts and minds, there are still localities of immense poetical beauty on these admittedly overbuilt islands.
In most of these images Silvio John chooses to pull our eyes right into the picture. We are led, typically through some receding pathway that loses itself in the distance, towards the sea beyond. Thus, while the artist meditates upon the singular beauty of the ragged rocks or the wild flora present in the foreground he still stretches his sight towards the sea. I feel that, for the artist, the sea is a metaphor of escape; of the thrill of possible lands and alternate existences that might lie just beyond one’s reach”.
‘Ħarbaħolma – Images of a Wistful Escape’ will be open at Palazzo de Piro, Mdina up to the 28th February 2020 from 9.30 am to 5 pm. Entrance to the exhibition is free.