Colorful expression of the soul of an artist

Energetic, spontaneous, colorful and daring are adjectives that succinctly define Carmel Bonello’s art. His production is expressionist, exploring the world around him in colors and flowers. Its typical black contours, as in the expressionist work of Georges Rouault, Bernard Buffet, Oskar Kokoschka and Egon Schiele, contain the chromatic vigor of the Maltese artist’s palette.

He thus emphasizes the mass, energy and volume of the subject represented. It could be the moods and moods of a Maltese landscape, the emotions that engrave a human face, the sensual voluptuousness of a female body or the completely non-figurative.

Carmel Bonello

This exhibition, which is his first solo in many years, finds him exploring the themes for which he had made a name for himself in the booming Maltese art scene of the 1990s. The ardor of youth has softened to as the experience of life matured Bonello.

The landscapes

The protagonists of German Expressionism have looked away from the relentless tumult of city life, politics and the portents of impending world war, to draw inspiration from unspoiled nature, which is an antidote to stress. and the evil that overwhelmed them.

The artists of Die Brücke (The bridge) reveled in representations of themselves and their companions frolicking in the lakes and rivers around Dresden.

Fishing boats in St Paul's Bay, MenqaFishing boats in St Paul’s Bay, Menqa

their colleagues from Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider) were based in the countryside around Murnau and delighted in its natural beauty. The French fauvists, “the wild beasts”, were also expressionists, using pure colors and fierce brushstrokes. Landscapes became abstract and free as expressionist philosophy celebrated the primordial power of nature.

Wassily Kandinsky, one of the founding members of the Blue Rider group who is also widely regarded as the father of abstraction, looked at the spiritual aspect of art. He once said: “Color is the keyboard, the eyes are the harmonies, the soul is the multi-string piano.”

His landscapes from the Blue Rider period are chromatic symphonies; the emigrated Russian artist used to experience synthesis, a condition that allowed him to hear colors and see sounds, thus merging the two senses.

Fishing boats in the bay of Saint-Paul, Veċċa '“Fishing boats in St Paul’s Bay, Veċċa”

Bonello’s landscapes are sometimes explosions of color and compositions subdued to others. His mood changes, reflecting the weather conditions. His outside This approach allows him to transfer onto his paintings the immediacy of these atmospheric conditions in interaction with the Maltese landscape. Its landscapes range from the built architectural fabric of our island to representations of nature in its purest and most essential form.

A notable example of the latter is The last trees, Mellieħa; the skeletal trunks and branches suggest a change of season, from fall to winter. However, the title might indicate an alternate interpretation, alluding to the slaughter of trees in this once picturesque village – the birthplace of 20th century Maltese artist George Fenech, who relentlessly and lovingly portrayed the village in his landscape work. Fenech’s Mellieħa has been buried under a flurry of hideous architecture that has ruined its very soul.

The last trees, MellieħaThe last trees, Mellieħa

The Bonello Tree Cemetery evokes similarly themed works by Piet Mondrian and Peter Doig. The Dutch artist deconstructed the tree in its most dignified and empirical form, reducing it to an apparition in the form of a web of branches and a trunk. There is a promise of spring resurrection in Mondrian trees, as well as Doig trees, and the natural cycle of the seasons. Bonello’s small grove of trees lives on borrowed time, until a promoter decides to make hay. There might not be next spring for these trees after all.

The two landscapes of the bay of Saint-Paul de Bonello demonstrate his capacity as a mature expressionist, adopting an approach of Nicolas de Stäel who reconfigures the landscapes in zones of pure color, focusing on a balance between representation and abstraction. pure. Fishing boats in St Paul’s Bay, Menqa is a harmonious composition of reds, blacks and whites, the volume being created by the juxtaposition of colors. The flood of red boats is silhouetted against a moving black sea. The textures are constantly changing in this work, and everything seems to be in a state of flux.

The artist rearranges the empirical elements defining a fishing village the boats, the pier and the intriguing sea – in narrative poetry

Color and abstract form take over Fishing boats in St Paul’s Bay, Veċċa as Bonello focuses on the deep blue sea that can still be enjoyed in some of the bays and coves of Malta. The artist rearranges the empirical elements defining a fishing village – the boats, the pier and the intriguing sea – into narrative poetry. The artist distils the ugliness of contemporary architecture out of the composition, to bring out the spirit of the bay and the murmurs of centuries-old stories that are the fabric of this humble fishing village.

“Rue de Valletta”

Valletta Street is an almost monochrome study of a typical street in our capital, a niche with a saint on the corner as the steps ascend to the sky. This painting is an exercise in minimalist sobriety, the verticals and horizontals drawing the viewer into space while the imposing architecture of the time of the Knights of St. John threatens to release its ghosts, springing from the cavernous pits of the balconies, doors and windows.

We remember the technique of representation of the architecture of the French artist Bernard Buffet, where precision and suggestion are balanced. Buffet’s landscapes still lack the hustle and bustle of humanity – they evoke a kind of post-apocalyptic scenarios that can also be found in Giorgio de Chirico’s metaphysical paintings – a monumental solitude that equates to his poise and his peace through the absence of human beings. Bonello, like Buffet, deliberately distorts scales and perspectives, thereby adding drama to the composition.

Body and faces

A juxtaposition of faces, dispossessed of their bodies, is what makes the paintings Humans and Blue heads eloquent tapestries of human emotion. Doubt, anger, resignation, vulnerability, guilt, strength and fun come together, a disconcerting commentary on the inconstant condition of man.

“Four Confused Heads”

In Bonello’s old painting, madness is perhaps symbolized by the face upside down. One can casually think of the paintings by Belgian artist James Ensor, especially his 1899 Self-portrait with masks, where the Symbolist artist plunges into this environment of contrasts. Bonello’s powerful painting is a testament to the diverse expression of humanity. Sometimes we laugh, other times we cry and grit our teeth in despair. At other times, we look on with shame or are stoically unwavering.

Four confused heads focuses on doubt as a debilitating emotion. Four Ensor masks, eyes wide open, confer a revealing symptom of disorientation. This particular painting evokes the words of the French thinker Voltaire: “Doubt is an uncomfortable condition”.

Bonello’s abstract expressionist threads further compound misery, perhaps indicating that the seeds of doubt sometimes have nonspecific and irrational origins. Henri Matisse, in his famous Fauvist portrait of his wife known as The green Line, divides the face in two, precisely along its longitudinal axis.

'Red face'‘Red face’

The green line divides it into two almost exact halves, one cold and one hot, without any equivocal jagged or curvy parts. Many interpretations of this then unconventional approach were attempted during his first exhibition, even alluding to Matisse’s marital difficulties.

A red line goes down the same way, parting Red face in two, suggesting a struggle with internal demons, a common human heritage. The brushstroke is raw and blatantly expressionist in Bonello’s painting, drawing on basic primary colors and black to illustrate the garish dichotomies that challenge our daily lives.

Fragmentation and uncertainty relentlessly disturb us in an internal, tortured and unequal existential debate. Bonello, through the sinuous line that descends like a tear, suggests separation, impending decoupling, psychological stall, as the face threatens to crumble.

“Blue heads”

Selected works finds Carmel Bonello at the height of his maturity. Ernst-Ludwig Kirchner, the preeminent German expressionist once said: “A painter paints the appearance of things, not their objective accuracy, in fact he creates new appearances of things. Bonello gives his landscapes, human and abstract figures color, rhythm and flow, evoking the words of the famous German artist, as he tries to dig beneath the surface of things.

Selected works, hosted by Gemelli Art Gallery, Ta ‘Qali, is open until December 23. The opening hours are 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on weekdays and 10 a.m. to noon on Saturdays. It is closed on public holidays and on Sundays. COVID-19 restrictions apply.

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