The Sunday Times

The Sunday Times

February 15, 2004

Chromatic Exchanges

  1. Fiorentino

We have lately been assisting to quite a number of newcomers on the local art scene, which in itself is a healthy indicator of the abounding talent in our midst. Some of these candidates do it simply to satisfy their own ambitions as mere practising artists, others amalgamate those aspirations to qualify with a justified public exposure of their erstwhile unknown talents.

Stephanie Borg (b.1971) is one of them. Her first personal exhibition, entitled ‘A Journey in Colour’, is currently being held at Cleland & Souchet at Portomaso. It is a vibrant exploration of colours and a preoccupation with linear patterns by someone who has in recent years spent some time in such diverse cultural backgrounds as those to be found in Oman and Mestre (Venice).

Much of her work in this collection of 18 recent coloured ink drawings on paper is in fact directly inspired by her stays in those places. Her calculated linear qualities, coupled with a sensibility for minute details and the chromatic values which she distinctly imposes onto her drawings, immediately reveal her day-to-day activity as a professional graphic designer with a leading local design and publishing company.

The artist clearly possesses an innate talent for eliciting decorative elements in her work. Her ‘oriental’ subjects, despite their relative small sizes, probably steal the show for their exotic costumes which are individually displayed as flat patterns.

In this regard I would immediately mention the ‘revealing’ examples of ‘Sharifa’, ‘Muna’, ‘Ameera’, ‘Kareema’ and especially ‘Sheikha’s Sisters’, wisely refraining in my opinion from including any features of the individuals, leaving blank anonymous faces in order to give due importance to the colourful attire of these female subjects.

The female dress in ‘Maryam and Majid’, with the combination of its deep crimsons and green and the ensuing stylised geometric patterns, contrasts so effectively with the pure whiteness (except for the waist-band) in the garb of the male companion.

The work called ‘Blazing Dunes’ too carries with it the memories of the drumming desert heat in the blistering ambience of the Middle Eastern Sultanate of Oman. Quoting from what Bernadine Scicluna wrote, by way of introducing the artist in the exhibition brochure, about this particular painting, “solar energy erupts into twisting and spiralling linear motion emitting both radiance and radiation.”

The second group of works, admittedly less exciting for our Western eyes for reasons of greater familiarity, relates to the artist’s experience with the Venetian scene. In the four variations of Impressions of Venice, the prow of the gondola – an immediate emblem of Venice – is a constant reminder of the Queen of the Adriatic as it lolls above the carefully linear definitions of the spiralling waves.

With an artist like Stephanie Borg who delights in representing the chromatic ranges existing in what she sees around her, it is not surprising that some of the exhibits carry with them a floral or vegetative theme.

There are three examples in this section which consist of ‘A Little Garden’, ‘Flow of Green Leaves’ with its dominant greens and determined touches of yellow, and ‘Amaryllis’, which builds on the previous example but with the reddish glow of the flower added on. While each specifically creates a homage to a luscious creation, collectively they elicit the graphic patterns resident within the subjects.

The work entitled ‘Radiant Messenger’ (one of her most recent works) brings us more within the ambit of patterning as we know it in traditional Western art. There are finally three pieces which are more or less concerned with abstracted patterns, even though they could have been assimilated from natural forms. Consisting of concentric circles, done in a variety of pigments, they are ‘Blue’, with its concentration of that colour tempered by an area of white, and ‘Untitled I’ and ‘Untitled II’, with the greens and crimsons predominating.

The exhibition runs until the end of this month.

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