Haunted by the spirit of old stone

by Chev. E. Fiorentino


There is always a satisfying pleasure in discovering hitherto unknown talent in others. The third personal exhibition by Cedric Galea Pirotta entitled Malta... of lines and washes, and consisting of 20 recent works in ink and washes, at the Cleland and Souchet lifestyle store in Portomaso, confirms once again the talents of this young artist in capturing parts of the old building texture in Malta.

When Galea Pirotta first emerged on the local scene only last year at the Corinthia Palace Hotel in Attard with his Stoneworks exhibition, I immediately felt that here was that rare kind of artist who, despite having a limited agenda in his artistic expression, left no doubt that he was subscribing to a genre of paintings in which he barely has any equals among other contemporary Maltese artists.

That positive impression was further justified with his second solo collection at the same Attard venue earlier this year, together with his occasional participation in a number of collective exhibitions at a number of other locations.

Born in Naxxar in 1971, Galea Pirotta is practically self-taught in art although he is well-versed in graphic design. His versatility in design has undoubtedly come in good stead to tackle the finely detailed renderings of his subjects where he is practically competing with the camera ( which he carries with him in his exploration of the island), to bring out the verisimilitude of the objects under his observation.

Galea Pirotta is in fact not at all new to drawing. He describes how since he was a child he always loved to sketch and draw - " I loved to sit by my father and watch him paint some luzzu on some scrap piece of cardboard or else skip my homework and go to my grandfather's (Joseph Pirotta) corner shop and watch the master silversmith meticulously create silver artefacts - sacred and profane." It all somehow shows that the love for detailed work runs in the family blood.

Primarily he is deeply fascinated by old eroded stonework, seeing in it a beauty which can be compared to that strange "beauty" in the decrepit wrinkled faces of old people.

Galea Pirotta has this time included a couple of boats, which he calls il-Qoxra  and Il-Parit. But the emphasis remains mainly concerned with buildings, either in their whole range or through some close-up shots.

For the latter category one can mention Arched Doorway, Abandoned Doorway, each a perfect visual record of humble rural structures, the Gregorio Caraffa Bust above the entrance of the former Auberge d'Italie in Valletta, Mistra Gate, Mgarr Niche and the two stone Mdina Main Gate Lions (left and right) which daily greet the numerous visitors entering that noble old capital.

When it comes to broader pictures Galea Pirotta maintains his disposition to bring out all details within the composition. The charming Safi Church is captured from some distance from the back, while X - The Waterfront shows a section of the recently rehabilitated Pinto Stores below Floriana.

Other examples feature Senglea Landscape, Remissa and Old Theatre Side Entrance, all being a separate mixture of urban and rural buildings.

For the artist, Valletta is indubitably a city which entreats the passer-by to look up at the architectural adornments, though in effect few people make such efforts. He gives us one particular example with 70 West Street, though he also brings our attention to another house facade, that of Number 4 in his native Naxxar.

Possibly Galea Pirotta would keep focused on this genre of work within the foreseeable future. I would have no regrets if that were to happen. In that way he will be certainly establishing himself as an outstanding illustrator of those unique qualities within the Maltese landscape ethos for both present and future generations.

With him nothing is done perfunctorily. With his zeal and indomitable spirit there is a readiness to move ahead. In him there is the dichotomy between someone whose daily job has to do with computers, that inevitable tool for the modern world, and his fixation to illustrate the charming aspects of old Malta.

As for any possible divergent attempts to give a new character to his work, only time will tell.

The exhibition runs until November 11th.

Featured Paintings :

Abandoned Doorway (Pen Ink and Wash)

Mistra Gate (Pen and Ink)