Joseph Paul Cassar, 'Analytical Forms',
Exhibition Catalogue, 2000

The title of the exhibition “Analytical Forms” by the young artist Mark Sagona (b.1976) points to the assertion of the cubist dialect concerned with the representation of objects in space and simultaneously depicted on a flat picture surface. The cubist vocabulary suggests the interplay that exists between organic and inorganic forms, the dialogue that is exploited between the frontiers of foreground and background as well as those of middle ground. Analytical implies the breaking down of a subject into its component aspects, usually as the direct result of observation which at times leads to the building up of a new invented configuration which can stand on its own.

These preoccupations of “Analytical Cubism” were indicated in the exhibition of 1911 at the Salon d’Automne which promoted first and foremost the breakdown of form into the multiple elements by a return to elementary geometric structures of which Paul Cézanne had provided an example and secondly because of its analysis of three-dimensional forms on a two-dimensional surface through the use of non-realistic form and colour which make of the picture a thing in itself - its own beginning and end.

The works on display in this first personal show by Mark Sagona present a curiously flattened and ambiguous space. He elaborates on the architecture of forms where natural appearances seem to play an ever-diminishing part. It is an approach, which led the young artist to a selection of simple, geometric structures. The apparent homogenous mass moves in front of our eyes, contracts, expands, seems motionless or flickers, proving that painting is no longer the art of imitating objects but that of giving a pictorial expression to our intuitions.

His interest in the structural formal properties of his subjects shows complete disregard for details. He adjust his empirical observations and fuses the whole into a network of inseparable and at times contradictory features. The organisation of the whole surface is in terms of interpenetration and interacting planes. The dynamism, which is presented in the main objects, emerges as strange, disturbing but controlled. Simplicity is achieved through modifications of a number of planes and facets, shifting planes jointed together or hanging behind each other in shallow depth. Out of these forms emerge solidity which at times disintegrates again. It is a method, which is undeniably unscientific; it remains primarily intuitive, for the artist is at liberty to move around his subjects and incorporates any information that he gains in this process.

When he fragments and decomposes the objects in his still-lifes as in “Composition with Violin” or “Cylindrical Forms”, it is not in order to strip them bare or to disengage some essential quality, but rather to create a complete new kind of pictorial space. Similarly in his figure compositions such as “Dissected Anatomy” and “Yellow Divisions” he distorts anatomy for the sake of creating a rhythmic structure that can merge solids and voids and invent new shapes. The element of representation is contained and is of a personal kind. The artist like a jazz musician improvises the sheer vitality and variety of his experiences. This desire for a tension of this kind between apparent abstractions and suggested representation led Apollinaire in 1908 to claim the artist as “inventor” defining the new art of the time thus:

“...the art of painting new structures with elements which have not been borrowed form the visual sphere, have been created entirely by the artist himself.”

The armature of his paintings is the fruit of colour and lines of forms. Similar to stained-glass windows the black frames allow colour to vibrate. The grid-system applied in his compositions bears references to Rayonism as invented by Larionov in 1911 where beams of light break everything into shafts of sunlight. Delaunay in 1913 stated that:

“Light in Nature creates movement in colours. The movement is provided by the relationships of uneven measures of colour contrasts among themselves which constitute Reality.”

Light is indeed the key to our experience of the world.

Colours simultaneously relate to each other and the isolated components became prismatic colours - an optical feast of new vigorous arrangements.

Their abstractness is merely a disguise; often behind each image lie simple beginnings. Mark Sagona already believes in the capacity of abstract colour and form to embody an idea as shown in “The Four Seasons”. He does not reject nature but penetrates behind the optical experiences in order to find a deeper inner meaning. This has led him to stress subjective invention and visionary imagination.

Joseph Paul Cassar is an artist, art critic, curator and educator. He lectures at the Junior College, Faculty of Education, Mediterranean Institute and the Art Unit, Faculty of Architecture of the University of Malta. He is specialised in the Modern and Contemporary Period of Art History.

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