Patrick Dalli – Nudes

The Contemporary Art scene in Malta is wide and variegated, vibrant and dynamic with stimulating excursions in many fields of visual expression. It has exciting bursts of creative energy in the multifaceted crosscurrents of artistic activity that fall under the broad realm of Contemporary Art. This goes hand in hand with a boldly pulsating expansion into new forms of media.

It is an undeniable fact that Figurative art, so profoundly engrained in the general history of Maltese Art, has also carved a strong niche in the Contemporary Art scene. In the Modern Period, it saw its heyday in the work of a group of artists who emerged in the mid-twentieth century from the Malta Government School of Art with a profound academic basis in painting the human figure (particularly portraiture, not the nude). These artists were, in turn, tutors of the younger generation. The period 1970-1990 saw, however, its appeal wane and it was only over the past two decades that there was a forceful rekindling through the work of Anthony Calleya, Lawrence Buttigieg and others. It is within this context, and furthermore in the representation of the Nude, that Patrick Dalli emerges as a major player.

This book is the catalogue of an exhibition entitled PATRICK DALLI – NUDES, held at St. James Cavalier in Valletta, which shows more than forty paintings and drawings executed by Patrick Dali between 2005 and 2008. It is the artist’s fifth solo exhibition and, definitely, his most important, public outcome. This exhibition shows the artist’s assiduous and unremitting concern with depicting the human figure, an interest that has developed and matured significantly since his first solo exhibition held in 2002.

It is a profound fascination with painting the figure from real life that characterizes Patrick Dalli’s art, and this is what the exhibition at St. James Cavalier is all about. His painting and bold drawing (executed over the last 36 months), show his obsession and passion for capturing the physical structure of the nude body and tactile qualities of the flesh.  The figures that he paints, shown always on their own, absorb within them the context around them. Patrick Dalli’s paintings have grown in scale to life size proportions and strike the spectator with their remarkable realist nature and sombre silence.  Within the much wider context of international art, Patrick Dalli’s admiration for the work of Lucian Freud, the greatest figurative artist in Contemporary Art, is clear and palpable.  The artist acknowledges this sincerely.

The artist’s works on paper are animated by a fast and disciplined line, and by spontaneous strokes of brushwork or modelling effects; these range from fresh three-minute sketches to ‘full works’ that shows the artist’s strength in figurative studies.  Dalli’s interest has also spread into the field of sculpture, always intent in modelling the human figure with strokes that are reminiscent of his own brushwork and imbuing them with a gravity that makes flesh metaphorically turn into bronze.

 Dr. Keith Sciberras Ph.D