Artist John Borg Manduca's latest solo exhibition was a source of immense personal pleasure for more than one reason, including the prestige of the venue and its charitable aim.

His 56 works - the fruit of 18 months of inspiration - were showcased at the Office of the Prime Minister in Valletta in aid of Caritas Malta.

Both factors have filled the "tired but happy" artist with pride.

It was not just an honour for Mr Borg Manduca to have been accepted to exhibit at the Auberge de Castille. There was also a strong element of nostalgia for the former military man, who recalled that the stately hall where his works were displayed used to be the officers' mess.

"The room next to it was our living room and we used to play billiards in the Prime Minister's office," recounted the 75-year-old, who managed to marry a passion for art with a career in the army, never losing his interest in the former along the way.

He has been painting since childhood, encouraged by an art master at St Edward's College, who took him under his wing and even allowed him time out of school to paint for competitions. But when push came to shove, his father told him he could forget art and would have to join the army.

"I was a weekend artist," Mr Borg Manduca related, until he retired in 1990 and opened his own gallery on the Sliema Front, commanding views of the sea, which features prominently in his works.

In fact, Mr Borg Manduca feels his forte is his seascapes, although Maltese landscapes and street scenes were also displayed in his exhibition based on "what I love doing most".

"The sea is the most challenging. It is not easy to capture the movement and the colour...," hence the appeal.

Mr Borg Manduca is known for his oils in palette-knife art, a technique he has stuck to ever since he discarded the brush in his late 20s.

"The beauty of art is to establish a style and leave your stamp," he maintained, unfazed by any imitations and the fact that he has never changed his technique and his subjects.

The exhibition, which was inaugurated by Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi, was organised by Joe Sammut, Caritas Malta PR and fundraising, and curated by Tonio Ganado.

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