Artist Gabriel Buttiġieġ is showing a selection of works at Pjazza Teatru Rjal, Valletta, till December 21. The exhibition, titled Nudes, brings together a collection that – as the name suggests – focuses on the human figure.

Writing about the exhibition, Niki Young explains that the works on paper and canvas in this present collection constitute Gabriel Buttigieg’s second solo exhibition. “Buttigieg’s work is instantaneously recognisable, both due to its style and subject-matter. Many of the works on paper feature a series of quasi-impulsive, free-flowing brush strokes, which give a sense of naturalness and spontaneity to the works. Such spontaneity is however also supported and controlled by strategically distributed bolder lines which create determinate boundaries within the works, and draw the composition together into a structured whole. Other works in this collection are however decidedly softer, and give off a more intimate feel.

“Buttigieg himself seeks to steer away from over-rationalising his own work and intentions; the thrust of his art can be said to intentionally rest on this explicit emotive rather than conceptual content. Buttigieg’s attitude towards his own work may then be paraphrased as follows: there ought to be no psychologising present here … the works simply are what they are, and say what they say. “Yet, it would be impossible not to notice the recurrent theme present in Buttigieg’s work overall: predominantly female figures – bar the fact that artist occasionally features as a protagonist – hidden behind an uncanny, alluring, yet at times unnerving, veil of anonymity. The way the figures are portrayed in turn give the artworks an intimate, personal feel, and invite the viewer into their world as well as that of the artist. Interestingly, the figures draw the viewer closer, yet their anonymity allows them to remain forever at a distance. I would then claim that Buttigieg’s work is deeply conceptual and existential, even if the artist is rarely willing to explicitly concede this. His work is not innocent for the very same reason that a slip of the tongue is not simply innocent. In other words, his work often speaks more than it lets out, even if its underlying force is never present at face value.”

Josette Galea adds: “Very often in this exhibition, one finds a dual treatment of the same subject. One is more serene, more defined, more elegant and more delicate; the other is electrifying in its energy, the brushstrokes bristling with vivid, almost lurid, almost formless colour. “In these more turbulent paintings, colour and passion take the upper hand. The energy of the moment seems to overshadow the form. This duality hints at two opposite facets in the artist’s personality which he finds difficult to reconcile and which create great conflict.

“This enormous tension is possibly what fuels his immense creative drive, evidenced in the fact that this young artist has returned after only ten months from his first exhibition, with even more varied technique and skills and style. “By giving us two versions of the same subject, Gabriel Buttigieg boldly and honestly reveals the painstaking technical process of creating a painting, as well as the wild, uncontrollable energy that feeds his art. His transgressiveness is not there to shock, but to remind the viewer that there are few boundaries in intimacy.”

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