The local art scene has been in development since the introduction of cave art on the Maltese islands, created a huge surge in cultural awakening during the rule of the Knights of St John and kept developing until today where Maltese artists such as Rosette Bonello create for the sake of creating – as a pure means of expression.
During the modern art period in Malta, art, expression, creation and most importantly colour, took over the scene. This gave Maltese artists their opportunity to produce artworks on commission basis for patrons such as the local church after investing years of travel, study and exposure into their creative trade.
Who were the leading Maltese Painters in Malta’s Modern Art Scene?
While the local art scene was already thriving well before our modern masters took charge of the scene with the influence of distinguished Maltese painters such as Giuseppe Cali, Edward Caruana Dingli and Anton Inglott to name but a few, the mode and messaging of the modern artists held an innovative and inspiring essence, imported from their studies in Rome.
Maltese artists such as Emvin Cremona, Esprit Barthet, Gabriel Caruana, Alfred Chircop, Harry Alden, Willie Apap, Antonio Sciortino, Vincent Apap, Philip Chircop, Frank Portelli, Josef Kalleya and Antoine Camilleri paved the way for today’s contemporary artists, such as Rosette Bonello, to use their media in an all-expressive manner.
Here are a handful of the Maltese artists who left their stamp on the local art scene with their abstract art in Malta:
Emvin Cremona: church painter turned mixed media master
A legendary artist whose first exposure in the local art scene started with his patronage of the local church. Dubbed the church painter of his time, Emvin Cremona was a well established stamp artist through the 1950s up until the 1980s.
His most impressive era was that of the Broken Glass Series – a collection of works that offered an innovative abstract art expression where a thick coloured impasto layer slapped onto a canvas was met with a thin sheet of glass, only to be smashed prior to drying to create random results that symbolised his creativity and need for artistic expression.
Esprit Barthet: an artist whose shape work stand proud
Esprit Barthet is yet another well respected artist whose use of colour, shape and texture signified his title as one of Malta’s pioneering artists of the 20th Century.
A Valletta artist who together with his closely knit community of abstract Maltese painters spent the bulk of his artistic training at the Malta school of Arts, before further improving his inherent talent at the Regia Accademia di Belle Arti in Rome. His most iconic series and biggest contribution to the Malta art scene is the Rooftop Series.
Gabriel Caruana: a ceramicist whose creativity is unreachable
The late Gabriel Caruana was one of the most celebrated modern artists of our century. Starting off as a canvas painter, Caruana later moved on to ceramics, a medium which he manipulated and mastered with his intense use of mixed media.
The artist’s oeuvre is greatly celebrated locally with the Gabriel Caruana Foundation founded in 2016, playing a major role in the preservation of his huge selection of local artworks that can be found across the island including the University of Malta, The Mill – Art Culture and Crafts Centre, as well as in many local private collections.
Willie Apap: a bold and daring Maltese artist
Willie Apap, much like his peers, was trained under the guiding principles of Robert and Edward Caruana Dingli, together with his brother Vincent Apap; a notable sculptor in his time. He studied at the Malta Art School and was later granted a scholarship to the Roman school where other local artists sought the most professional artistic training.
Apap’s art portfolio is rich and intriguing, with works such as La Benedizione and The Descent from the Cross, stand out as two of his many iconic works of art. Serving as religious iconography carried out with a modern and expressive twist, Apap is one of the most notable Maltese artists to date.
Josef Kalleya: a local sculptor whose works today still cause intrigue
Josef Kalleya is best known for his contribution to Malta’s sculpture scene. Highly influenced by Dante Alighieri, with a collection depicting dialogue in his artistic expression of Dante’s Inferno. His reverence to religiosity and the influence of the church often made an appearance in his portfolio of works yet took a modern angle, making his works innovative and pioneering.
Kalleya’s ability to create artworks of intense modern flair and creativity have till today created a stir in society that will only be heightened by our constant revisiting of his works.
Art is Malta never quite stood still, for centuries locals have found a way to express themselves with the tools, techniques and media available, creating staple moving works of art that, if celebrated by generations to come, will stand the test of time.