If art belongs to the realm of mystery, magic and enigma then Ray Piscopo’s art fits the appellations magnificently. And this is beautifully evident in the artist’s current exhibition, After the Masters, where he is showing 45 works at the China Cultural Centre.

The joy that emanates from Piscopo’s art is the sunny spell that fills the heart of the visitor at a glance

The first art exhibition by a Maltese national at the centre, it was inaugurated by the director Gu Hongxing.

If catharsis is fundamental in art, then the joy that emanates from Piscopo’s art is the sunny spell that fills the visitor’s heart at a glance. This artist’s art is alchemic, as he transforms the vicissitudes of life, pain and suffering into exultant joy.

It is really incredible how this man, who faced death twice, expresses himself about the resurrection. As he puts it, he transforms dark into light, pain into healing and desert into oasis. Piscopo’s art is about constant movement, brilliant colour, drama and pathos.

It is enough to mention a few examples of how he conditions movement according to the subject interpreted. There is Pontormo’s Deposition in slow-moving action; Carracci’s Pietà in frozen dramatic pathos and Michelangelo’s Ezekiel, a forceful posture of a massive, solid and strong figure. It is interesting to note the way Piscopo transformed Guido Reni’s thrusting Archangel Michael into a dancing movement.

It is a pleasure to appreciate and enjoy new works such as Phantom of the Opera, Gone with the Wind and Ben Hur Chariot Race in their splendid colour, extravagance and exuberance.

Piscopo’s introduction to the world of art can be traced back to the early 1970s when as a student at a secondary school he was tutored by Antoine Camilleri (1922-2005). To date, he still cherishes the memory of those initial impulses.

Piscopo also attended life classes for a three-year period under the supervision of Anton Calleja, who regards the human figure as an essential tool in academic training. He attended Luciana Notturni’s workshop on mosaics in Ravenna, Italy, and, for three years, took classes at the Mosta Institute of Arts and Design in Ceramics under the tutorship of George Muscat. In 2008, he won the second prize at the third edition of Premio Piero Della Francesca, in Arezzo, Italy.

In 2009, Piscopo attended a three-week art master class in Salzburg, Austria, with Hubert Scheibl, a foremost artist in Germany. He used a style very similar to artist Gerhard Richter, who employs scraping over layers and layers of paint.

In 2012, Piscopo attended another master class session at the Sommerakademie Venedig, Italy, with the renowned Senegalese artist Amadou Sow. The latter is best known for his micro-painting, and for designing Taittinger champagne bottle labels.

During these two workshops Piscopo managed to complete about 11 paintings at each session. He digs into old and modern masters and, with thrilling excitement, excavates great treasure which he transforms into a modern idiom eulogising the greats.

After the Masters runs until Wednesday at the China Cultural Centre, Melita Street, Valletta.

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