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Featured Artist - Matthew Kassar   Print  E-mail 
Submitted by Artissa Administrator  

By E.V. Borg

MKassar2Matthew Kassar (1968-) lives at Qrendi, a quiet, quaint, sleepy and picturesque village that is the stuff of legend and fable - the location of 'Hagar Qim' and 'Mnajdra' monumental examples of our megalithic culture. This enclave was inhabited from time immemorial.

He refers to his studio as 'The Sleepy Hollow' as he loves the solitude and velvety silence of such meditative space next to the roof. No CaptionHe often gazes through the frame of his French-window at the core of this marvellous lost village and remains spellbound observing the provincial parish church, a perfect jewel of architectural design, set in its friendly square - a popular meeting place like the classical Mediterranean Greek stoa or Roman forum. This prebend is made to man's measure and the space seems timeless.

No CaptionThis dreamy atmosphere of tranquillity, serenity, peace and rest fills his heart with joy and 'benessere' and imbues his nature with equanimity and 'disinvoltura', a feeling that is directly transposed with aplomb into his works. Mathew is thrilled with the atmosphere and mood of a place and with great prudence, patience, sensitivity and sensibility constructs each architectural site, stone by stone in the manner of a dedicated and responsible stonemason.

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It-Tieqa - Dwejra - GozoMatthew is a reflective being and his art is the result of deep meditation and contemplation. His vision or concept develops in gradual stages. He chooses haunted spots judiciously and with profound discernment in the manner of an experienced photographer. With his instinct for mathematical formality and musical harmony he obtains that acute sense of the essential and universal. His works emanate a sense of timelessness, completeness, unity and balance.

No CaptionFor Matthew our villages are full of unique, ambiguous and surprising formations. He asserts that such characteristics have inspired him to paint in a passionate manner. The chapel of 'San Pawl tal-Qlejja, Mosta' and 'St. Agatha Chapel, Zurrieq' are perfect examples.

Tarxien TemplesWith great patience he gradually fixes old scraps of newspapers on to board mulling over the effect of each piece until his collage becomes a jigsaw puzzle. He then unifies the pieces by painting over them with either a fine veneer of acrylics or thick impasto depending on the atmosphere he desires to create or mood cast. Finally he might give a thin protective finish in transparent varnish. His work is not spontaneous though he improvises between stages in the exercise.

No CaptionHis works are essentially graphics - architectural masses, articulated shapes and forms in a contrast of light and shade. The sky and earth are usually vast spaces in flat neutral grey-blues. The composition is generally direct, simple, clear, bold and economic - so austere and severe that it does not lend itself to any sort of caprice or decorative adjuncts. This sombre approach at 'chiaroscuro' is so overwhelmingly impressive!

No CaptionMatthew's works are tangible, tactile and sculptural illusions. With great sensitivity, sensibility, patience and care Matthew interprets vernacular architecture and our artistic heritage in its ambience in an incredible 'verismo', a powerful and potent illusion of forms, volumes, shapes and solids in space. 'St. Anne Chapel' in Fort St. Angelo depicts a heavy ancient column, solid and massive supporting a cavernous space. His art could easily be regarded as an offshoot or modern interpretation of Synthetic Cubism'. It is solid, sculptural and impressively three-dimensional! The 'Sleeping Lady' is a case in point. In this instance the play is with the sphere, hemisphere and curvaceous forms as modules.

Red Tower - MelliehaIn a series of fortified citadels like gigantic aircraft carriers on the skyline: Mdina, Senglea, Vittoriosa, Valletta and that of Gozo he suggests and evokes the massive, strong and formidable aspects of a superhuman engineering feat that is intended to dominate, awe and strike fear in the heart of the besiegers. Such bastions of faith, a will to form rising sheer from the water or soil are the result of possession - the fear of losing all in a divine struggle for survival. Fear begets violence and violence kindles fear. In this instance the solid cube replaces the sphere as the basic module but the exercise is essentially the same producing a patterned ripple to achieve rhythm and musical harmony Yet the maternal dome broods over the skyline pierced by pointed steeples or the isolated keep.

No CaptionMatthew's love for 'arte povera' is not incidental. Some years ago he visited Joseph Sammut, the Ombudsman in his studio at Santa Lucia. Joseph sensing Matthew's enthusiasm and keenness gave him some examples of his collages to observe and keep. Then in 1993 Matthew worked in close collaboration with Roberto Cipollone in his studio – 'La Bottega di Ciro' at Loppiano in Valdarno, Tuscany. Ciro is a wizard at exploiting 'found objects' and is highly talented in such genre of 'arte povera'. Matthew became deeply engrossed in the work of both Ciro and Sammut. This actual collection is the end result of the deep impression these artists left him.

No CaptionMatthew feels that painting has always been an empowering personal experience. A theme unfurls every time he paints. It might be political, social or personal according to whim or mood and more often it concerns the fragility of life. Matthew feels that painting is a powerful communicative medium. It gives him so much freedom, so much liberty. Art stimulates his fantasy and imagination that smoulder, spark and catch fire.

View Matthew's gallery here. Matthew is currently holding an exhibition at the German Maltese Circle - see the press release for more information.

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Personal Exhibitions:

  • 'Abstracts' (2001), Bay Street, St. Julians.
  • 'Village News' (2004), Cotoner Hall, Mediterranean Conference Centre, Valletta.
  • 'Tangible Illusions' (2005), German Maltese Circle, Messina Palace, St. Christopher Street, Valletta.
  • 'Untitled' (2006), planned to be held at Heritage Malta, Old University Buildings, Merchants Street Valletta.

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