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Two Diaries: Exhibition by Carmel Bonello and Jeremy Ellul   Print  E-mail 
Submitted by Artissa Administrator  

by E.V. Borg

Jeremy Ellul, Carmel Bonello‘Two Diaries’ is a fascinating journey of experience turned expression by Carmel Bonello (1960 -) and Jeremy Ellul (1975 -). The language is a creative brand of Expressionism quite imaginative, fantastic, bubbling and applied. The exhibition inaugurated on Friday 2nd October will be open to the public at Heritage Malta main office, in Merchants Street Valletta for nearly six weeks till Friday 13th November 2009.

coloured face 2 Carmel BonelloCarmel Bonello with a characteristic beaming smile on his face and twinkling eyes full of joy has a dynamic, powerful and forceful idiom that contrasts with his serene and calm exterior. Jeremy is smart, alert and clever though informal. Bonello’s dazzling career spans decades. He is prolific, spontaneous and improvises with gusto. Full of enthusiasm he is not the tame traditional and conventional Expressionist (of whom there are several in Malta) but an exuberant and extravagant creative Paradise Lost J Ellulforce quite unique in his forceful idiom. I can only think of another artist: Catherine Cavallo of his caliber and such dynamic strength.

Jeremy Ellul, much younger, is the self-taught, unfettered artist, without any preconceived ideas, free and unpredictable. He will surely surprise us in future. With just seven years of work behind his back he has already distinguished himself with his freedom of thought and expression. Naturally though Expressionism is at least 100 years old this event might raise a few eyebrows, regarded as a risk; and might even serve as a challenge and catalyst that might stimulate discussion or create some controversy even though the media has exposed the public to wilder work. But that is why man is born free and unshackled.

Outside our shores such an event might be considered mild, a historical document. The event, in conservative Malta (that has retained censorship) might be considered a threat. In the 1950’s Maltese Expressionists were derided by a closed authoritarian society, by the establishment and several of them were forced to emigrate. Impressionism, much softer and more romantic survived.

Mother and child Carmel BonelloExpressionism is an international language and it is next to impossible to write a history of modern Europe without studying its manifesto, ideals, ramifications and widespread practice. It evolved in Paris around 1905/1909 with Matisse as leader and father, followed by the controversial figure of Van Gogh and the School of Paris together with the Cubism of Braque and Picasso.

Expressionism is an outpouring of emotion. It is a romantic movement that accepts harsh reality: darkness, night, death, sickness and disease, corruption and decadence (moral and mental) and life’s vicissitudes. It can be exuberant and extravagant as in the Fauves (wild beasts), like the work of Vlaminck. Yet it was a Nordic movement and two groups: the ‘Blue Rider’ and the ‘Bridge group’ are vital cornerstones. The former based in Munich (1911) was led by Kandinsky, Marc and Klee; the latter based in Dresden (1905) was led by Kirchner, Schmidt-Rottluff and Heckel with Munch as their mentor. Major individual artists: Beckmann, Ensor, Nolde, Kokoschka, Rouault and Soutine were a formidable asset in the movement’s proliferation.

Pink Lady J EllulThough it is quite easy for the layman to rubbish or totally ignore this exhibition: ‘Two Diairies’, for those more subtle the event could open windows and doors, to those who are naturally inquisitive and curious, those who want to learn more about their origin, about themselves. Carmel exploits the language of Expressionism and invents a new vocabulary, adds phrases and idioms, changes grammar and construction. A stagnant language soon dies of inanition. It starves. Carmel can surprise us as well. He can return to the roots as in ‘Mother and Child’. It is a beautiful composition with renaissance echoes. The ‘Madonna’ is so gentle, caring and caressing though noble, iconic and hieratic. Its frontal position is formidable. It is an excellent work the result of experience and considerable talent.

The difference in expression between Carmel and Jeremy is that of approach. Carmel has an academic background and his works can be considered paintings in the traditional sense of the word. Jeremy is a conceptual artist more concerned with the idea than its material realization. Technique is less important. Jeremy is not hampered by tradition or convention. He dangerously hangs on a cliff edge but there is the excitement that danger and fear stimulate.

Life J EllulPerhaps “Paradise Lost’ is Jeremy’s best work. A man and woman (Adam and Eve) reach up to the sun for salvation. The images seem burnt in the clay of a matt ceramic plate. The texture, the primitive simplicity, the economy in the work is astounding.

Bonello concentrates on faces, on facial expression. ‘Global Faces’, ‘Green and Red Faces’, ‘Expressions of the Face’ and ‘Expressions of a Coloured Face I & II’ are examples. The latter work – two framed pictures demonstrates that Carmel is a master of design and that Picasso has changed his life for ever. Jeremy is a master of graffito (example: ‘Faces’), six expressions scratched with the wooden part of the brush on canvas board mounted on wooden blocks. Jeremy’s language is primitive not as in Lascaux and Altamira that can compete with Caravaggio but match-stick design. His art disarms with its simplicity, frugality, roughness; and it is so elemental.

global faces (2)Jeremy is fearless when tackling life’s problems: death, disease or tension. His expressions of horror and ugliness are: ‘Risen’, ‘Leave me alone, I’ve had enough’, ‘Ecce Uomo’ and ‘Road Rage – Everyone is a Ticking Bomb’. These are a result of direct experience such as an x-ray of a person sick of cancer, a tired person ready to die, and a driver in traffic.

Carmel excels in assemblage. He constructs found objects into an art work like ‘Composition in Metal’, ‘Changes, Realities, Reflections’ integrating a hub cup of a car, pieces of metal, CDs and DVDs and other objects. In ‘Photographer’ he is quite creative with a female plastic bust and torso. The pubic region is transformed into a monitor where coloured photos appear in cycle.

Jeremy has a series of wooden sculpture or engraved wood in low relief. ‘Creation’, ‘Man’, ‘Figure of a Woman – reclined’ and ‘Breaking Wave – Ghallis’ overflow with sensitivity and sensibility. ‘Life in the Village’, ‘Woman from the Village’ (nos. 40 & 43) and ‘Women from the Village’ are quite revealing and worth mentioning especially the latter.

Carmel Bonello, EV Borg, Jeremy EllulThe exaggerations and distortions of line and colour, the sentimental hysteria as in Munch, the influence of Negro Art are vital properties of Expressionism, the syntax in the actual work exhibited. Hitler’s denunciation of the movement as ‘Degenerate Art’ might have initially posed a lot of opposition but surely served as promotion and publicity. In adversity the notorious might become famous. Carmel uses vivid primary colours and a strong black graphic outline with consummate skill; Jeremy is interested in a scratched outline or graffito as a caricature. Most of the work is applied and life’s vicissitudes looms large.

Night has fallen, the wind sings in the trees, the gale becomes stronger and the gusts form a pattern, the rain lashes down. Then silence reigns supreme. Droplets of rain patter on the window pane. They form pools. The full moon is obscured behind clouds. It is music.


 
 
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