A study in bold strokes and fiery reds that made me weave stories in my head
A visit to Il-Kamra ta’ Fuq at the New Life Bar, in Mqabba, had long been overdue. This new(ish) exhibition space, curated by the Art Sweven team, has been particularly prolific in the past months with exhibitions by some really great names.
Yet, I only managed to visit last week. Shameful, I know, but… life! At least I was lucky enough to be introduced to the space by means of a spectacular exhibition. Aħmar Ħelu w’Qares by Darren Tanti. The small room on top of the iconic bar was the perfect venue for this collection of haunting paintings; intimate and allowing me to get up really close and personal to the works.
I was also happy that I had chosen a quiet afternoon to visit, so I literally spent a lovely hour there alternating between taking in the works as a whole and inspecting the little details that Tanti hides so well in his paintings.
Aħmar Ħelu w’Qares is a collection of large-scale and smaller paintings dominated by their red hues, as the name of the exhibition itself suggests. Each painting represents some of the artist’s most important moments from his life, but the emotions it evokes are universal.
The works are a collection of mixed media done in black pencil, white chalk and oil on canvas. For me at least, the pièce de résistance is Twelid l-Imħabba, taking up most of the wall space to the right as soon as I walk into the space. The glorious contrast of red and blue, coupled with its sheer scale, almost makes it impossible for me to look away as I take in detail after detail.
A re-interpretation of Bougereau’s Birth of Venus, the description reveals that this was inspired by a romanticised view of the birth of the artist’s daughter. But of course, the interpretation lies also in the eye of the viewer. And I cannot ignore the sensual softness of the main figure, held in contrast to the innocence of the cherubs looking in from the background.
Twelid l-Imħabba is an impressive piece. It is strong enough to keep pulling me back to it even as I’m enjoying the other (equally good, mind you) pieces.
Maybe it is the deep blue playing alongside the fiery reds that keeps my attention there. The longer I look at it, the more I wonder and the more stories I weave. Stories that were not necessarily the intention of the artist, but that live purely in my own head. Then again, isn’t that the cornerstone of great art, making us dream?
The rest of the collection is also mesmerising. Another large-scale piece hanging on top of the stairwell is masterfully done, a study in warm yellow and reds (of course). I am enthralled by the amount of hidden detail and here, too, I take my time studying it and looking for more. Shadowy figures emerge from the hues, in particular the small head of an infant that appears to be looking right back at you.
Tanti’s exhibition runs until December 12, so if you enjoy visual arts this one is seriously unmissable. And while there, finishing off with a G&T downstairs is always a good idea.