An exclusive exhibition on drawings is rare to come by. Drawings are important to the specialist art historian and critic, but the public is often ignorant of their importance.

Drawing… emerges as the prime and purest art form- Charlene Vella

There is a widespread inability to appreciate their importance to the finished work of art, and a greater inability that they can likewise be fully fledged works of art.

The on-going Bank of Valletta exhibition, therefore, comes both as a breath of fresh air and an eye opener.

The I Draw title is most appropriate. The Bank’s exhibitions have become a must in art lovers’ cultural calendar, and the retrospective exhibitions that it has put up over the years have become benchmarks.

A break in tradition came in 2010 with Relocation, an exhibition that was also dedicated to emerging artists. I Draw follows in this tradition.

The on-going Bank of Valletta exhibition comprises 35 works (mainly in pencil, charcoal and ink on paper) by seven upcoming Maltese artists – Irene Zammit, Darren Tanti, Adrian Abela, Fabrizio Ellul, Nigel Baldacchino, Bertrand Fava and Anabel Cordina.

The importance of drawing in the formation of the artist is amply evident: drawings (and sketches) reveal the first ideas that spring to the artist’s mind.

These artists share in common the fact that they have Anton Grech in the past. And I agree with Grech when he says that “drawing…emerges as the prime and purest art form.” Drawings (and sketches) reveal the first ideas that spring to the artist’s mind.

Often time I enjoy sketches or bozzetti (drawn or painted, or even sculpted) more than the finished works. There is a nearness to the artist in the freshness of execution that is frequently absent in the finished work. It is also true that drawings are unforgiving in testing the artist’s technical ability.

The more painterly exhibits are those by Irene Zammit. Her drawings are imbued with a sense of horror vacui where forms morph and merge across all sections of the composition.

Imagination is at its most fertile in the remarkable work by Nigel Baldacchino, while Bertrand Fava’s agitated line makes his work animated, intriguing and exciting. His works are among the freshest.

Also notable for their fresh approach are Fabrizio Ellul’s works, especially notable for the illustrated concepts.

Some of the works are less satisfying. The works by Darren Tanti for example, who is exhibiting drawings of mainly anatomical sections, and which in their nature are reminiscent of écorchés, are too strained, too precise. Il-Mara tal-Velu is, nonetheless, interesting, and one cannot doubt Tanti’s keen eye for detail and exactness.

Similar in nature are Adrian Abela’s drawings inspired by the octopus and by architecture. They are pleasing, but again, too precise, and not very exciting. His drawing that was used as the title piece of the exhibition is, however, remarkable and enticing.

An economical use of line features in Anabel Cordina’s work, which is minimalist in approach, composition and execution, where an extra effort was made for an uninterrupted line in black ink executed using a wide brush.

Unfortunately, the exhibition looks rather bland at first impression, perhaps due to the insipid nature of the boards used that does not help the drawings to stand out.

Moreover, the drawings are grouped according to artist and are solely accompanied by the artist’s name; no other captions. No literature is otherwise available unless one has the exhibition catalogue at hand. It is handsomely produced.

There is a standard that is expected of the BoV art exhibitions held in its head office. I would say that I am satisfied with this year’s effort.

I Draw is open until July 13 at the Bank of Valletta’s Head Office, St Venera.

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