First published in The Sunday Times, Malta, March 2, 1997.
Reprinted here with the kind permission of Chev. Emmanuel Fiorentino.

Memories from Australia

by E. Fiorentino

Since returning to Malta from Australia in 1992, Carmen Pizzuto has shown her work on two separate occasions. I quite remember feeling an enthusiasm for her paintings since I first saw them. There was something strangely different in the semi-abstracted imagery which she applied to her then small canvases.

Pizzuto is now back with her third exhibition of paintings, done over the past two years, which forms the subject of the latest exhibition being hosted by the Contemporary Room of the Fine Arts Museum. Her canvases have become larger this time, but in so doing they have lost none of that intimate charm that had characterised the former series.

This latest collection of 15 oil paintings which has been entitled “Memories and Reflections: An Australian Interlude”, refers to the 15 years, between 1977 and 1992, which the artist had spent in Australia where she was actively involved in a number of art groups, among which were the Glenroy Art Group, the Victorian Artists' Society and Exhibit 12, with whom she exhibited on different occasions in and around Melbourne. She remembers the time she spent in the Australian continent with a profound nostalgia—“the wonderful and liberating years” she describes it—and it is no wonder that she now finds herself recalling the experiences of the “great, lonely vastness of the land” which now provides the raw material for her first real experience in landscape as an artist.

These are not however landscapes vegetating on topographical rendering, though the artist knows exactly which particular spots she had in mind in the act of creating the paintings. The initial precept is more concerned with eliciting the emotions with which the recounting of particular Australian places become associated in the artist's memory.

She relates, for instance, how the exhibit entitled Incantation—Midday—Rushworth was inspired by her recollection of a torrid day in the vast outlands of the Australian bush where everything stands still except for lurking small creatures hidden in the grass.

The famed Hanging Rock is featured in at least two works. The Dreamtime and Song of Evening, the latter painted on a piece of ordinary sack-cloth which helps to bring out into better relief the impasto technique which Pizzuto often employs, thereby giving a vibrant texture to the equally vibrant colours, as in Summer evening—Broadmeadows, spread over the canvas.

Carmen Pizzuto's most recent works include Geelong's Lament, Night of the Comet—Violet Town and Nagambie Nocturne. Though chromatically linked to the earlier work, they present a more evanescent weave of painterly application. The general effect approaches that of murky still waters in a distinctly romantic vein. Could this be interpreted in terms of a distant vision slowly but inexorably wearing itself away into the past?

For after this liberation from the pleasant allure of memory, I suppose that the artist would possibly now secure a renewed interest in the Maltese environment for her production. Though the trend these days of female emancipation is not to make undue mention of whether achievements are made by individuals of either sex, I must still make the distinction by saying that Carmen Pizzuto is definitely to be considered among the most exciting female artists we have around at the moment.

Her expressive palette has all the hallmarks of a born colourist and I feel that she would probably not budge from that position. And whether she will still continue to trace the threads down memory lane to her years Down Under or else turn her attention to the more immediate reality of Malta, it would not really make that much difference to the way she cultivates the raw primitiveness of her paint into images which keep haunting the retina.

Image: Day burning out—Strathbogie (oils on canvas) by Carmen Pizzuto