Emmanuel Fiorentino
The Sunday Times (of Malta)
7 November 2004

Unveiling of the Spirit

Mark Sagona can confidently be considered among the leading artists of the rising generation. Hailing from Gozo where the artistic scene generally tends to assume more quiet proportions than in Malta, the initial and sustained encouragement from his family made him redouble his efforts to set a mark for himself in the art world.

His collection of 41 recent paintings entitled Manifesting the Soul, and which is his third personal exhibition so far, is currently hosted in the main hall of St James Cavalier. Even for those who do not go beyond mere surface concerns, it is a feast of colours, light and, dark patterns.

Sagona (b.1976), the son of artist and decorator Joseph Sagona from whom he first received his artistic training, first appeared on the local artistic scene in 2000 with his exhibition Analytical Forms at the Ministry for Gozo in Victoria.

This was followed earlier this year with his Recent Insights exhibition, concerned with local landscapes, which was put up at the Banca Giuratale in Victoria.

From one exhibition to the other it has become quite clear that this young artist is assiduously following new avenues of expression at each stage of his development.

With the current exhibition, consisting of works produced during 2003 and 2004, pure abstraction becomes the overriding language to explore the deep questions concerning the realm of the spirit, with such elements as God, the infinite, birth, death, fear and joy.

Abstraction here attains a genuine dimension where the spirit is pealed off from its tangible veils to reach a visionary illustration of what lies underneath. That can only be reached within the category of sensitive individuals to which Mark Sagona belongs.

The basic elements that partake of his iconographic approach are the dark grids that frame, encapsulate or even delimit other elements which for him define a particular symbolism, many times of a cryptic nature, though at the end of the day they surely remain invested with an aesthetic paraphernalia.

Though abstraction remains paramount throughout the entire range of the present works, certain acquisitions of form help in subscribing to a revelation of the subject under investigation.

Thus, for instance, in Truth Unveiled a curtain seems to be on the point of being drawn aside to reveal the blistering light at the back. An equivalent sensation could be applied to his Open Gates or to the crossroads pattern on which Incrocio is based.

When I met the artist last week at the exhibition venue itself, I observed that he had the urge to pause in front of every exhibit, relating in each case the particular themes or incidents which inspired them. It could be the death of a close friend, the idea of repulsion, as in the homonymous work, or just a moment of introspection.

Dipping his inspiration from art history, he explained how certain details have been sparked off by his studies of old masters, in particular in the surrealistically-haunted expression of Hieronymus Bosch, though simply detached into his abstracted imagery and hardly suspected unless one is told about them.

Each canvas is thus a stage for exploring humanity within us, encumbered as it is with moments that either smile or sneer at us.

According to the particular moods that set off these paintings, the configuration of the grid-work changes. It becomes advisable in fact not to look at the titles simply as mere appendages but as something that helps to define the particular theme under investigation.

Keeping that in mind, the general title Manifesting the Soul gathers a true significance in that at whichever painting one’s attention is drawn at any particular moment, thereare invariable moods that one can find affinity with.


Chev. Emanuel Fiorentino is the regular art critic of The Sunday Times (of Malta).

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