The Malta Independent 24 October 2021, Sunday

Marie Benoit's Diary: ‘My art is my heaven’

Marie Benoît Sunday, 26 September 2021, 16:16 Last update: about 27 days ago
The artist Rosanna Ciliberti and Edward Saliba, Marie Benoit, Rudy Buhler
The artist Rosanna Ciliberti and Edward Saliba, Marie Benoit, Rudy Buhler

I haven't been to Marsascala for a number of years although I remember a happy time when friends of the family would invite us down to their summer home in Siberia and we would pass idyllic days there swimming and in and out of their rowing boat, crossing the bay, fishing and usually catching nothing. There was hobs biz-zejt and ice-cream in abundance. There were ten of them and five of us so there wasn't ever a dull moment. We loved it.

This seaside town has changed immeasurably since those idyllic days.

I was there a week or so ago for the launch of Rosanna Ciliberti's art exhibition 'Chasing Rainbows' in Rudy Buhler's Contemporary Modern Art Gallery, right in the heart of Marsascala.

Although I had featured his exhibitions several times, I had never visited any. Marsascala with all these new roads leading to it, and at night, seems very forbidding. But this time he insisted so off I went to pay my respects to him, for having the courage to open an art gallery down south and to the artist, new on the scene.

Reece Delia (Violin) and Isabelle Micallef (Piano)

I was immediately engaged by the Gallery and the art works.

 The eye is not overwhelmed and the Gallery does not present a feeling of clutter, of overkill. Pristine white walls and a glorious array of art greeted me.

I am simply not into the radical and the alternative. I am not into sheep immersed in a tankful of preservatives or unmade beds. There are certain exhibitions usually of modern art which are roughly on a par with visits to the dentist and to be endured with fortitude or the help of a stiff, alcoholic analgesic. I breathed a sigh of relief for this was certainly not the case here.

Rosanna's work is in resin, water colours, oils or a combination of them. 

She is very well qualified academically and is in her last year reading for a Master of Advocacy at the University of Malta with her daughter Sarah, which, she says, sometimes raises eyebrows.

 When it comes to Art, she has only had a few basic lessons and is self-taught, doing what comes naturally to her. She may have inherited her art gene from her parents for her father was a draughtsman and her mother's copybooks from her youth are full of art. Her daughter Sarah writes poetry in English and is working towards having them published.

Rosanna Ciliberti, Danielle van der Molen, Joan Formosa

"I have practically lived my life going against the grain in whatever I do," Rosanna tells me as she guides me round the exhibition. "This is reflected and clearly evident in my life's journey." 

Most of her works are bold and energetic. Sometimes the resin gallops across the canvas in textural leaps. Much of the work is done with her hand. It is an unorthodox approach. "I try to paint as directly and as rapidly as possible what I see and feel. By using my hand I transpose the general energy of my body in what I am painting." She also has a good sense of colour.

I was so delighted to meet, after a number of years, Carmen, the mother of Edward Saliba, husband of the artist. Mrs Saliba’s husband is George Saliba, now in his 90s and whose sister is none other than Mrs Violet De Marco. Their other brother is Guido Saliba. I remember George from my youth as he used to come home to visit my father. Even as a young girl I was mesmerised by him for he was so very handsome. Carmen tells me inspite of his years, he still is. Meeting Carmen, so unexpectedly was another high point of that evening.

Her passion for the Arts has been always present. She volunteers a little anecdote from her schooldays at St Dorothy's. During one exam, English, they were also asked to draw a tree. "I spent the whole exam time drawing this spectacular, abstract, sooo very different tree, coming all the way from my subconscious. I did not write a single word but spent the time refining my drawing. Obviously, this led to disciplinary action. This memory keeps resurfacing every time somebody asks about my start in art. I believe it was a defining moment."

She has no full time job at present and has used the Covid months to indulge in her passion for art. "Yes, Art is my Heaven," she comments. Her main focus is on abstract art, although she does go for semi abstracts at times. Hers is an unorthodox approach. She tries to paint as directly and as rapidly as possible what she sees and feels.

One cannot miss the startling power of cerulean blue; the cobalt and Aegean blues; the fern, chartreuse and jade greens, sometimes with delicate touches of gold and flecks of silver glitter and the purples which make her work even more glamorous.  Different hues are smeared, luminous and lurid, across her paintings. Her works have painterly punch. They have Oomph. The general feel is of lively images full of colour and movement.

But there are also gentle watercolours. And disturbing ones too.

Trevor Walton, Sylvia Scott, Linda Potlitz, Terry Smith, Sonja Smith

Rosanne says that her art journey started in 2012. That year and a couple of years before, she was suffering from anxiety and there were times when she could not cope well. "Art was a way of taking my mind off both past and future problems, and kept it in the present. My art is based on my moods and both the colours as well as the medium are an authentic reflection of the mood I am in at that particular time."

To come up with the total number of works exhibited it took her well over a year. "I was apprehensive as I was unable to share my works, discuss them,  until the opening of the exhibition."

Moreover, art resin is new and this exhibition has more than a brush with it. But I was struck by the yumminess all round me. There was evidence on show of ebullient pleasure in the material itself, whether thick or thin, loose and free or applied with a delicate touch; resin and its textures have potential to give energy and gravitas to a surface.

This is a superbly atmospheric exhibition worth visiting. It closes on 3rd October. For opening hours contact Rudy and Rosanna on Facebook.


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