The Malta Independent 25 June 2024, Tuesday
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Willie Apap, A Maltese artist in Rome

Thursday, 16 November 2023, 12:05 Last update: about 8 months ago

As part of the cultural programme of the Embassy of Malta in Italy, an exhibition of the works of 20th century art were exhibited at Rome's Palazzo Valentini. The exhibition presented the works of the Maltese artist, Willie Apap (1918-1970). Taking place between 8 and 10 November, the exhibition was also inaugurated through a symposium, in what served as the first post-mortem international engagement that celebrated the artistic persona of Willie Apap.

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The exhibition is curated by Maria Cassar (right) and srtistic consultant, Dr Charlene Vella


Curated by Maria Cassar - who has retraced Apap's journey through her extensive research, the exhibition distinguished Willie Apap as one of Malta's foremost painters of the 20th century.

Artistic Consultant, Dr Charlene Vella, furnished this project with a great degree of insight on the artistic movements of the 20th century. Together with Ms. Maria Cassar, Dr Vella presented the mind-altering changes envisaged in the works of artists like Willie Apap, who travelled to Rome on Malta Government School of Art Scholarships to enhance their artistic formation. From Rome, Apap embarked on international ventures to South America and Scandinavia that earmarked him as one of Malta's finest artistic envoys.

Willie Apap, A Maltese Artist in Rome, presented a small selection of figural, portrait and landscape oils, and some pen and inks, running across his artistic journey. Consisting of human figures, landscapes, sacred works and portraits, the exhibition demonstrated the diverse traits of the artist, his painterly technique and his maturity as one of Europe's finest artistic exponents. The paintings exhibited at Palazzo Valentini, all hailed from private collections, and thus this collective effort led to this joyous commemoration of the artist's raison d'être.

This beautifully designed exhibition, set out to capture the stark spirit of spirituality, so synonymous with both Malta and Italy. In addition, the bands of light, otherwise known as the strisce featured so prominently in Apap's works, and hence he rightly earned the title of 'il pittore delle strisce'. The strisce were aptly epitomized in this exhibition through Apap's Cristo nell'Orto degli Ulivi'.

Apap participated in the II Mostra Nazionale d'Arte Sacra of Celano in August of 1964, and won through his entry - 'Cristo nell'Orto degli Ulivi'. Following its success, Apap's 'Cristo nell'Orto' was acquired by the Comune of Celano in 1964 and given as a gift to the Parrocchia del Sacro Cuore on the occasion of the opening of the new parish church which had been completed in 1962. It was adopted as one of the fourteen stations of the Via Crucis which were all executed by different contemporary artists. During the course of this exhibition, the Comune of Celano and the Parrocchia del Sacro Cuore loaned this prestigious work of art to the Embassy of Malta in Rome.

Touted as the first exhibition in his adoptive city, following his premature demise, the Rome exhibition presented a remarkable display of Apap's skills with colour and light. Enabled by the Culture Diplomacy Fund of the Ministry for Foreign and European Affairs and Trade, this project hailed the artistic splendour of Willie Apap and in so doing, it also shed further light on the rich and amicable inter-cultural exchanges between Malta and Italy.

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