Most artists speak of their art as the private expression of their emotion or their soul. So does Gozitan artist Mark Sagona, but he does it so passionately that it is quite gratifying and heart-warming, even for the other person.
Magnificently incorporating colour and light in his abstract paintings, one can’t help but be spellbound by these masterpieces which are nothing short of visual poetry.
“My approach to abstraction is something very intimate, spiritual and personal. These works are direct renditions of particular moments – they don’t have titles, they are not representing anything in particular, but the emotion and spirit inside the artist. Hence the title, Inner Impulses.”
This is how Sagona describes the beautifully crafted works for his solo exhibition that is running until July 13 at the Il-Ħaġar – Heart of Gozo Museum, as part of the 18th edition of the Victoria International Arts Festival.
This exhibition is the first one Sagona has had since being awarded his doctorate degree in Art History last year. It also marks the return of the artist to his home island of Gozo, a place where he hasn’t exhibited in since 2006.
Sagona’s abstract colourful pieces feature in his ninth solo exhibition to date. These 25 stunning visual works, which are the product of nine months of hard labour, also encapsulate Sagona’s artistic journey so far.
“This collection of paintings represents a synthesis of my artistic journey in these past 15 years. These new works are the fruit of my recent painting research which brings together the language of my earlier abstracts and landscapes with the more expressive and energetic brushwork of the later abstract paintings,” says Sagona.
These works of art, therefore, cannot be viewed in a vacuum, as being demarcated from the past, but rather they are a physical manifestation of Sagona’s journey as an artist from the past to the present.
“These compositions are recent mutations of a continuous inner, spiritual impulse which is charged with the magic of light, the sensuality of colour and the stability of form. This exhibition has to be seen, therefore, in the context of my past artistic journey,” he says.
Sagona gets his inspiration from a variety of sources, but this particular collection of works is, according to him, “the tangible manifestation of my spirit and my existence. This collection is very expressive in quality, but structure and composition play an equally important role”.
Visual representations of intangible emotions
The exhibition then stays true to its name as it consists of visual representations of intangible emotions and musings, rendering something which is inner and unseen to an artistic creation that is material and overt.
“This is an art which is pure, an art which is unshackled and comes from the soul, the mind and the hand in one single harmonious act. But at the same time, it is the natural progression of ideas I have touched upon previously. Colour and light remain essential ingredients of my works and the paintings are created in a multi-layered approach which is synonymous with my work.”
Sagona has been fascinated by the arts from quite a young age, adding that he has been painting since he was a toddler. This love of art and artistic expression seems to run in the family as his father is an artist who works as a decorator and designer for churches and it was through him that Sagona first felt his calling as an artist.
As he grew older, Sagona used to accompany and aid his father on his various church and private commissions. He also explains that him becoming an artist was inevitable, seeing as he was exposed to it at such a young.
“The fact that I had so many art books at home which I could continuously flip through also injected me with the knowledge of art and artists. So when I’m asked why I became an artist, I think I really had no other choice.”
Although he has been painting since he was a toddler, it was in the late 1990s that Sagona started to come into his own as an artist. Upon enrolling at the University of Malta and the Malta Government School of Art in Valletta, he started developing his own style, his own voice amid all the art and artists he had come to know and love as a young boy.
“I gradually started developing a personal style. This was primarily the result of the friendship and contact with my lecturer in modern art at the time, artist and scholar Joseph Paul Cassar. He opened new paths for me and he gave me important examples and advice. This led to my first personal exhibition in 2000.”
Since then, Sagona has come a long way, seeing as he has not only had a series of solo exhibitions locally, but also abroad with his last solo exhibition held in Paris in 2010-2011. His artistic journey has also been noted by Conrad Thake, professor in history of art at the University of Malta, who has written a catalogue which is being published in conjunction with the exhibition.
“Sagona’s artistic work has matured over time from his earlier figurative and semi-abstract representations of the landscape into full abstraction motivated by an introspective and soul-searching quest for the mean-ing of the self and inner consciousness,” writes Thake.
The exhibition runs until July 19 at Il-Ħaġar – Heart of Gozo Museum, Victoria.