A FORMIDABLE EXPRESSIONIST
George Preca (1958-) is a strong, bold and vigorous Expressionist, a formidable one with an instant impact effect that transforms itself into a lingering suggestion and permanent impression. His strength is his surreal, metaphysical and naïve fantasy, a phantasmagoric imagination. He is a romantic and sentimental expressionist and expresses the psychic moods of fictional characters. In a touching and felt manner he evokes mood, atmosphere, emotion and sentiment conveyed by places, people and events.
His expression overflows with emotion, an outpouring of sentiment and feeling tinged with pathos and empathy for humanity travelling the same path he treads, facing the same vicissitudes, his way of life, his philosophy. He loves life and caresses humanity with his brush. His compassion and sympathy for the characters he tangibly creates is mellow with a sweet melancholy tinged with an incredibly sad nostalgia.
His choice of subject or theme though common-place hides patient reflection and deep contemplation. Surface texture is only a subtle veneer for deeper emotion and feeling. His work might hide deep research into the human psyche by a language of symbols. His work is not about physical reality though tangible and material. It is about thought and intellect, about the inner self, the soul, the spirit. He might work spontaneously and fast but after lengthy reflection and meditation.
His subjects vary from sacred to profane, from still life to landscape, from fictional male to female portraits, to horses, to lush trees and woods, to everyday themes, to moods and sentiments. George is an eclectic and studies the masters: Giorgio de Chirico, Salvador Dalì, Edgar Degas, Toulouse Lautrec, Paul Cezanne, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Franz Marc, Vincent van Gogh, Paul Gauguin, Henri Rousseau and German Expressionism. He is much indebted to his near relative George Preca (1909-84) one of our leading masters who made a name for himself in Rome. Such rampant eclecticism and interpretation of the masters give his language greater eloquence, historical perspective and richness. Auxiliary to such richness is his love of history and compulsive travel to cities of art.
His fictional portraits of women do not reflect physical beauty but ordinary women and their life, perhaps lonely, solitary and at times tragic and painful; their face almost a mask caked with cosmetics yet they are not going anywhere. They are lost in their sadness. They are women from Fellini films, almost grotesque, lost in thought. The eyes of his female characters accuse and stab the heart that bleeds profusely. George has empathy with persons on the periphery of society, discarded, disoriented, ostracised, emarginated and left to fend on their own. There is so much pathos in the faces, so much drama and tragedy, implicit, as if he is only an on-looker but helpless. The more they think they are not alone the more isolated they feel.
‘Aphrodite’ is an icon picked from a Classical Greek sculptured head of the goddess while ‘Fellini Woman III’ is so bizarre in her flowery head-dress with a waterfall of dangling glass beads. ‘Zenobia’ strikingly strong in profile wears a white transparent blouse in the manner of Picasso while a ‘Lady in a gold and jade Necklace’ shows frivolity and a tendency to seduce. ‘Woman with Beret’ and ‘Woman with Red Bonnet’ are companion pieces that exude a sense of forlorn sadness characteristic of the personality of these women. George is a master at depicting this subject.
George is a lover of horses. He demonstrates an instinctive urge to depict this subject. It is a favourite subject that he depicts with pleasure and satisfaction. Lazy, docile, racing, chewing grass, charging or fierce in battle, rearing in the corrida, frolicsome in water, drawing a heavy cart or on a plinth in a square or street his horses are full of life or so real and larger than life. His horses are elegant, beautiful and seductive though naïve. His most dynamic interpretation of the subject is ‘Great Siege 1565’. Whether as props in a crucifixion or rampant in a mêlée they fill our heart with pleasure.
His female nudes are mysterious, magical, seductive and attractive. ‘Nude Sleeping’ on a red sofa with a crescent moon in a dark night over her head is so mysterious and enigmatic, ‘Nude Washing Hair’ is so expressively dynamic as in Matisse while ‘Amazon’ looks like a Roman gladiator almost grotesque and absurd. ‘Surreal’, a woman with wings in metaphysical surroundings is a cloning of Giorgio de Chirico and Salvador Dalì.
His landscapes with trees are highly Impressionist though at times his obsessive expressionism changes the trees into tongues of flames as in van Gogh. Fabulous and legendary are ‘Horse-drawn Cart’ and ‘Bridge over a Stream’, a paradise saturated in luxurious green grass. ‘Citadel’ is a museum piece. A self-taught artist, George stamps his work with his reflective nature. His work is very personal and impressive though he is an introvert, withdrawn and detached. He imbues his sacred art with deep emotion with the intense spirituality of a fervent believer. His sacred art pulsates with sentiment and feeling. ‘Christ Crowned with Thorns’ evokes Christian piety by appealing to our compassion through pain, suffering and selfless concern. George captures the mood by reflecting on pathology.
He is most surreal in his still life. ‘Still Life with Lion’ is quite representative. On a white tablecloth stand fruit, an extended bunch of grapes and a pot with plant in contrast to a lion on a column that can be seen through a wide open window with the same intensity and definition of the still life. The vision is metaphysical and the symbolic icon of the lion of St. Mark is a reference to Preca’s educational travel to Venice to stimulate his cultural baggage. ‘Still Life with Landscape’ combines the bright yellow of a van Gogh and the symbolism of a Gauguin.
In ‘Musician with Mandolin’ the artist demonstrates his passion for music while ‘Pan with Flute’ refers to the god of music and a reference to Greek mythology. In ‘Castle and Angry Sea’ the source is surely that of Salvador Dalì. The dilapidated castle with arch leaning on a house rises like a lighthouse against a rough sea that does not augur any good. The simplicity of the work coupled with the austerity of the scene stimulates thought. The works ‘Clown with Tear’ and the ‘Lady with Ruffs’ are echoes from Picasso. The wine shop ‘Għand Kurun’ has the vigour of German Expressionism.
George uses pencil, oil and soft pastel and acrylics and a combination of these media. His drawings are like etching with a sharp needle. His graphics are like graffiti. His forms are flat but highly tangible incised with a thick dark line around the edge frequently used as a shadow or dark outline. ‘A Formidable Expressionist’ is a collection of 75 works presented at SkyParks Business Centre between 28th February and 31st May 2019.
‘Pablito’ or ‘Melancholy with Pipe’ could be regarded as the logo or a representative icon of the exhibition.
E. V. Borg
Curator & art critic
23. 02. 2019
Note: The first personal exhibition by George Preca was a collection of 63 works the result of 20 years of work and study exhibited at Cavalieri Art Hotel, St. Julian between 1st September and 4th October 2016.
George Preca's works are available to the public in the Monet Gallery till the 28th of July. This exhibition is sponsored by Delicata Wines and Deco Manufacturers.