First published in The Times, Malta, February 16, 1995.
Reprinted here with the kind permission of Lara Strickland.

Miniatures at large

by Lara Strickland

The Contemporary Hall at the Museum of Fine Arts has opened its doors to a rather unusual exhibition — unusual, in that all the works (with the exception of one large canvas) are no larger than two inches square. The 22 paintings are the work of Australia-trained Carmen Pizzuto who after her return to Malta in 1993, is now holding her second solo exhibition.

Born in Malta in 1957, Pizzuto emigrated to Australia some 20 years later. In 1981 she took a diploma in Complete commercial and Graphic Art Design with Scott's College in Melbourne. Since then, she has participated in numerous group exhibitions in Victoria and is also a member of a group of artists who go by the name, Exhibit Twelve.

The paintings being so small in size with large coloured mounts and simple frame are indeed a pleasant change from the more conventional exhibitions held at the museum. Cleverly contained within coloured bands, our eyes are immediately drawn towards the activity in the central part, where colour and occasionally form, assume importance.

The medium appears to be a mixture of sorts — paint, pastels and ink with a wax-like finish. Despite their size, some paintings are in a semi-collage form with sections of paper overlapping one another creating a ridge in the painted surface. The scratchy technique draws attention to the grainy paper beneath as other colours attempt to come through.

Early in the series, Maltese VillageMaltese Village stands out as a colourful companion to the other more monochromatic paintings because of its vibrant colour. Startling panels of colour constitute buildings which are further emphasised by a thin black outline which is interrupted and discontinued half way down. The style as well as the choice of colours (orange and blues) are especially reminiscent of the works of Raoul Dufy whose simplified forms, bright colours and calligraphic draughtsmanship demonstrate a light-hearted decorativeness also found in this painting.

Her contemplative painting Still Life and Rain, demonstrates how different tones of blue merge to create the somewhat dark and broody interior. White flowers with dark centres stand in a vase which is framed by a window pane revealing the falling rain outside.

In spite of the flowers the atmosphere is an oppressive one, in essence totally different to her series of boats.

The Boat Series are potent miniatures with concentrated spurts of colour leaning heavily towards blue although splashes of red and orange do make the occasional appearance. Outlines of boats emerge from a haze of background colour while the angular shapes of sails and hulls are themselves bold statements.

Open daily till 4.30 p.m., the exhibition closes on Sunday.

[ Image: Maltese Village ]