The Malta Independent 5 December 2023, Tuesday
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There’s more to Ray’s art than meets the eye

Marie Benoît Sunday, 17 September 2023, 09:00 Last update: about 4 months ago

Ray Piscopo's vernissage of the first of his two collections of paintings A Vision of Humanity and the Psyche, which took place at the Wignacourt Museum in Rabat recently was an outstanding success. So many turned up not simply for the social event but to look at the many paintings. The exhibition of the first collection closed yesterday and today the second will open until the 29th September.


Prof. Alex Torpiano inaugurated the exhibition and said that he has known Ray since before the age of 10. They both went to the Lyceum, though they were not in the same year. They had the luxury of having Antoine Camilleri as their art teacher. They also met in 'yesterday's' Bugibba where their parents used to move for the summer months.

Ray's career was in engineering "not an airy fairy engineer but a serious stuff engineer, a power engineer, first making a career at the Marsa Power station, and later as Chief Engineer at FMS/Mater Dei, Prof. Torpiano reminded us. He also strongly argued the cliché that people who can do mathematics cannot do art, and vice-versa. "Ray is the prime example of how wrong this cliché is. It is unfortunate that it is so widely believed, and that it actually underpins a  fundamental aspect of our education system - if you want to do science subjects then you cannot do humanities subjects, and vice-versa. I think Ray will acknowledge the influence that Antoine Camilleri had on little boys doing art for the first time (in my time it was either art or music, but you had to choose one of them.)"


Prof. Torpiano continued to argue that art and engineering are not alien from each other, not mutually exclusive, "and we should not be surprised to see Ray excel at both - at different times of his life, granted, but that is more an issue of opportunity than of aptitude. My professor at the University of Bath, Ted Happold, once wrote "And a World which sees art and engineering as divided is not seeing the World as a whole."

Prof. Torpiano left comments on Ray's art to Prof. Laganà, the popular art critic. It is impossible to do justice to his paper here. But let me give you a few quotes:

"In an era marked by conflicts and natural disasters, Piscopo's art becomes a mirror of our shared reality. The turmoil and tribulations we witness are not isolated incidents but rather echoes of a historical continuum that humanity has navigated for centuries. Through his art, Piscopo reminds us that the ebb and flow of adversity is an intrinsic part of our human story."

Prof Laganà reminds us that in an era marked by conflicts and natural disasters, Piscopo's art becomes a mirror of our shared reality. "Through his art, Piscopo reminds us that the ebb and flow of adversity is an intrinsic part of our human story."


He continues to say that n his paintings Ray addresses several issues related to the lives of people, historical references, social themes that are very relevant today, and cultures that are being lost. It is all there in his paintings. Although stylistically these two art exhibitions, are distinct from each other but they remain mostly figurative."


Prof. Laganà pointed out that as we contemplate Ray's works, we are reminded of the delicate balance between nature's fury and its fragile beauty. "The elements of history, human conflicts and desires, and unconscious thoughts come alive on his canvases, echoing our relationship with each other and the earth." He said that Ray's paintings challenge us to confront the consequences of our actions, both individually and collectively. "They beckon us to examine the choices we make, the policies we endorse, and the impact we have on the world around us. Piscopo's art is a call to responsibility, urging us to recognize the role we play in shaping the narratives of our time."


In the face of adversity, he told the audience, art has the power to heal, inspire, and unite. "Piscopo's paintings capture not just the struggles, but also the resilience that defines humanity. They are a tribute to the human spirit that persists even when faced with the harshest of circumstances.

As we stand at the crossroads of history, let us draw inspiration from Piscopo's work. Let us strive to understand the complex interplay between our environment, our politics, our religion and our economies. Let us remember that our actions today shape the world of tomorrow. And let us find solace in the knowledge that, like the strokes of Piscopo's brush, we too have the power to create beauty and meaning in the midst of challenges."


He then quotes the famous English art critic and social thinker of the 19th century, John Ruskin, who reminds us that the profound impact of art, particularly the beauty found in nature and painting, can have on the human mind and soul is immeasurable. The writer explored the connections between aesthetics, morality, and the psychological responses that art can evoke in individuals.


In conclusion, Ray Piscopo's A Vision of Humanity and the Psyche is not merely an expression, it is a profound reflection of our times. His paintings are a reminder that our journey is marked by both struggle and triumph, by setbacks and progress. May we carry forward the insights gained from Piscopo's art, as we navigate the currents of change and work collectively to create a future that is as vibrant and enduring as the strokes on his canvases."

On a more personal note, for me it was an occasion to meet Ray as all 'meetings' so far, had been on email. And also to see at close quarters his art and listen to some of his explanations about some of his paintings.
I also, to my delight, met Nadine Micallef Grimaud whose father Aldo, had painted a portrait of my three sisters and myself long ago. My mother, very keen to get it done, used to pay us six pence every time we went to the Micallef Grimaud home, just a few doors away, for Aldo to sketch us.

Nadine herself is an artist whose collection was featured in The Malta Independent not long ago.
Another delightful encounter was Madeleine Vella Satariano whose parents I knew well, but especially her father Cecil who won several awards for his amateur films. Madeleine herself is an artist whose collection of paintings Natural Beauty will be launched in October at the Voluntary Centre, Rabat.


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