MORPHING THROUGH ART

Watching from behind the wings as an artist prepares his lines for a performance can be tantalisingly dynamic as it gives the onlooker, if he or she is observant enough, a clear indication of the inner workings assailing the artist as his work morphs over time.

Elements of Moods is akin to a performance with a number of acts that are presented centre stage for the audience’s keen observation. The work of Joseph Casapinta isn’t new to the public. However this time round Casapinta has literally walked the plank and threaded territory he had previously sidestepped very carefully indeed. This is the territory reserved for the audacious, who experiment farther than most and thus strive and manage to reach new heights in their performance.

Over the years I’ve come to the conclusion that composing a painting is very much like preparing for a performance. If done by a true artist who puts his energy, freedom, mental effort and soul into the work, it becomes the embodiment of a moment in time that gets encapsulated perfectly. One can tell when a painting has been done spontaneously, unconditionally, instinctively; when the barriers have been mentally lifted and the hand becomes free. There is no suggestion, and if it surprisingly leaks in from any past inspiration, then it is so subtle that it only gets noticed, just barely.

In this second major solo by Casapinta, I have experienced his journey of transformation. Put blankly, this artist started out and technically remains a most highly talented pen and ink observer of all things mundane. His pen and ink works are impeccably delicate and to the point, incisive and indicative of his interpretation of romantic corners of perception. But with paint, which is what this exhibition presents us, Casapinta takes on a new dimension when major enthusiasm kicks in.

Stepping out of the straitjacket of atypical Maltese country scenes, he first provided an inkling of possibilities in his 2008 exhibition through his frameless depiction of the Valletta night skyline or his Fields in Rabat. But there he painted what he saw, only gingerly interpreting it to make it his own. Now he’s gone overboard to the extent that his paintings are also frothy sea with no land on the horizon and skies without much more than colour mutations. The wild seas are always open to much interpretation after all, as are the hues that make up skies after the storm. While Smewwiet anticipates the arrival of angelic apparitions that do not materialise, St Angelo becomes semi-abstract thanks to an agitated use of the palette knife that is yet delicate and exquisite in its rendition. And while you might think you recognise Mdina in his Serenity, Mdina it is, just not quite. The latter is nearly a playful rendition of what is typically Maltese as the artist well-wishes it to remain in constant tranquillity.

Yet this is also an artist in touch with reality as his Prismic Town depicts and as his What has Become tries to unfold. His knotted scenes as in Complicated or Road Rage are direct puns on our modern world of frenzy. Over all, there is agitation, there is mutation, there is experimentation all enveloped into one exhibition that brings in varied forces from this one artist. Each phase that has led to the culmination of this exhibition can be seen, appreciated and woven into the tapestry that comes together in his one and only self-portrait – a unique painting which delves deeper than face value. Few local artists ever try their hand at self-portraiture and for the analytically-minded, this one truly offers great food for thought.

Elements of Moods could very well be renamed “elements of transition” because this exhibition is all about transitions. The transitions that exquisitely materialised in the release of what could be. Some may query what, at face value, might seem like loose ends if only a fleeting overview of the exhibits is taken. I look at it differently. I believe the loose ends can be tied very neatly together and can ultimately lead us to appreciate an artistic conscience in the making. Few artists have dared as much.

Marika Azzopardi