Discovering the artistic soul of Anthony Calleja

Anthony Calleja is the protagonist of the 2017 BOV Retrospective Exhibition. Curated by Lisa Gwen Baldacchino, this exhibition will be open to the public at BOV Centre in Santa Venera from the 21st October. Calleja is the nephew of the late Anthony Agius, himself the protagonist of the very first BOV retrospective exhibition in 1999.

The artist and the man are inextricably interwoven in Anthony. He recalls himself as a child playing with clay in his uncle’s studio. Yet, he is convinced that at some point, the artist needs to step outside his comfort zone in order to ‘to discover who you are and find your voice’. This has been the journey Anthony embarked upon from a young age, a journey that still goes on today.

As in life, with Anthony everything fuses, and it is practically impossible to extract one element from another. Case in point, Anthony is both a sculptor and an artist. He mastered the techniques to such a degree, that there are instances where the sculptor and the artist come together in one piece of art. By fusing the two art forms, Anthony creates a new medium in which to express himself, a canvas that he owns and inhabits, and through which he expresses his emotions in a raw and vivid manner, leaving the visitor with practically no guidance as to how to interpret the piece. Thus, inevitably, discovering Anthony’s work opens a window on one’s inner self.

The flip side of Anthony Calleja’s artistic life is his teaching career. He considers both teaching and art as a 24-hour commitment. He feels very strongly about investing in the new generation, however he is adamant that a teacher’s role, particularly in the initial years, is to feed the imagination of his students, rather than teach them the technique.

The human anatomy features as a protagonist in Anthony’s work. The nudes as well as ballerinas are a recurrent theme, or rather a canvas, through which he voices his perspective about various subjects. In his ‘Caravaggio’ exhibition, for instances, he uses his self-portrait and Caravaggio’s inimitable chiaroscuro brush strokes to articulate eternal themes like the oxymoron of life and death, thereby his work often resonates longer and deeper, transcending the timeliness of the ‘here and now’. The sea is another important influence in Anthony’s life and art. His passion for the sea is well known and inevitably finds its way into his art. However, its influence is as a medium, rather than as a subject. One feels its presence, from the gentle laps to raging storms in his brushstrokes, and the application of white, the colour that accentuates all other colours.

Looking back, Anthony feels that he has grown as an artist over the years. But the artist in him has never stopped reinventing himself. Even as he struggles to put together this retrospective, he is on a quest to express himself in a new art form – slate. This is his latest project, a project that sees him trying to etch form out of stone, one of the most challenging media, whilst concurrently trying to discover the shape that is already hidden in the stone, and respectfully remain true to the inherent design.

Bank of Valletta’s Retrospective Exhibition is yet another manner in which the Bank lives its Corporate Responsibility. These exhibition seek to acquaint the Maltese public with the contemporary artists who have worked incessantly to make a name for themselves and for the Maltese islands, even in international fora. The BOV Art Exhibition Committee was set up by the Bank to pay homage to these national heroes, whilst concurrently serving to create greater awareness about their contribution among the general public. Anthony Calleja is the 27th protagonist, whose artistic journey will add value to the already rich patronage on our artistic scene.