The Malta Independent 18 August 2019, Sunday

Taking art to another universe

Tuesday, 23 April 2019, 13:10 Last update: about 5 months ago

As award-winning artist-illustrator Julinu prepares to present his first solo painting exhibition, Laura Bonnici chats with the exhibition’s project manager CATHY LAWLOR to find out more about the strangely familiar alternate universe of Julinu’s Radioactive Ravioli that will soon be presented to art-lovers in Malta

Known for his meticulously-executed visual ideas, graphic wit and atmospheric surrealism, the work of artist-illustrator Julian Mallia, better known as Julinu, impressed his debut exhibition's project manager Cathy Lawlor from their very first meeting.

"I first met Julian when he contacted me upon recommendation," recalls Cathy. "I remember going to his studio and being immediately impressed by the depth of the oil works - it was like looking at a piece that had the quality and technique of a fine art painting but with modern ideas and images, and of course a very quirky sense of humour!"


In fact, it is Julinu's playfully witty and characteristically contemporary outlook that has provided the catalyst for his first solo exhibition - the quirkily titled 'Julinu's Radioactive Ravioli'. Much like the beloved filled pasta parcels - which Julinu reflects look alike but have different fillings that can only be discovered through tasting - his collection of 17 realistically-executed oil paintings in the exhibition have an aesthetically-pleasing, outward appearance that may conceal more thought-provoking implications.

Combining traditional art techniques with his trademark sharp and modern approach, Julinu's paintings offer alternative visual interpretations of familiar notions and elements from pop culture, to present a strangely familiar alternate universe.

"I believe that the viewer will be struck by the exceptional quality of the paintings and the clever concept of the exhibition," Cathy continues. "They'll be challenged to piece together the word-play depicted by each image. Having done that, they will have gained an understanding of Julinu's aesthetic and style as an artist and developed a deeper appreciation of the arts, as well as enjoyed a chuckle at the clever representation of the pun."

Julinu's journey towards his first solo exhibition as an artist has been as unique as his aesthetic style. Although he originally graduated in psychology, Julinu pursued a creative career that has gained him a significant following as an artist-illustrator, earned him recognition from the AOI World Illustration Awards, and has more recently led him to be featured in The Power and Influence of Illustration, a book published by Bloomsbury UK.

Cathy highlights that Julinu's unusual artistic background and his expertise in psychology have both contributed towards making Julinu's Radioactive Ravioli such a one-of-a-kind and relevant art event. "This exhibition reflects culture and society in the present day. It's important that people have such artistic output to hold a mirror up to ourselves, showcasing our generation and our social norms, challenging us to think of our world and mark our place in it."

Like Julinu, Cathy also brings to the project a creative talent combined with real-world experience. "My background as a trained classical singer has had a huge impact on my professional career in arts project management," she points out. "My artistic background gives me insight and empathy to the issues that independent artists and freelance professionals in the sector face; the constant struggles for funding and support, networks and space."

Her project manager role on the exhibition is also apt preparation for her on-going role following it, as principal of Malta's School of Performing Arts (SOPA). "I feel very invested when managing a project such as Julinu's Radioactive Ravioli, as beyond the arts itself, it is about giving him a strong platform to be able to continue his work as a full-time artist. Creating that kind of artistic platform is something I also strive to achieve at SOPA, combining my skills as a practitioner, and in production and business management."

For now, however, Cathy's focus remains on making sure that Julinu's Radioactive Ravioli creates the impact on the Maltese arts scene that she feels it deserves. Aimed at art-lovers aged 16 and above, the exhibition has been curated by Justine Balzan Demajo with a critique by Francois Zammit, and it is supported by a Malta Arts Fund Project Support Grant from Arts Council Malta and by Vee Gee Bee Art, San Gwann.

Meanwhile, the exhibition's launch event on Friday 26 April will offer a short making-of documentary, some giveaways, and a catalogue on sale featuring all of Julinu's displayed work, plus refreshments that will include - of course! - assorted ravioli.


Julinu's Radioactive Ravioli will be exhibited at Spazju Kreattiv, Valletta, from Friday 26 April until Sunday 26 May 2019. Entrance is free. More information regarding Julinu and his work may be found online at

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