Culture clash in Sliema

East meets West at the Opus Galerie, Tigne, Sliema

While many of the better-known Maltese artists continue to enjoy well-deserved patronage, the exhibition of Armenian and Italian artists at Opus Gallerie 64, Tigne, Sliema entitled East Meets West is a colourful and varied display of portraits (or ritratti) and a mixture of images harking back to Old Masters or the now famous Moderns.
The Ritratto, with the ‘follow-you-everywhere eyes’ picture of a lady incorporates an expressive, naive art of portraiture as well as the coloured checkered clothing of Klimt. This Armenian artist, Avetis Khachatryan (b. 1979), has exhibited in Venice and Moscow besides his native Armenia. His work (previously exhibited at the Italian Cultural Institute) includes the enigmatic, L’amore del Re, the controversial Il Cacciatore and the much admired La Violinista, which is very likely his masterpiece – rich as it is in texture, symbolism and colour. In this rich tapestry of art the seated young female musician plays many tunes for the audience to listen out for. The Appuntamento, depicting a young royal couple from which the male model is repeated in L’Amore del Re, has just been sold. 
The inclined neck of Modigliani is recalled in Ragazza con Fiore, by Agbar Khachatryan; the facial expression conjures up intrigue with bright red hues, whereas Eleganza is more subtle and sultry. 
Ragazzo by Endza (b.1968) invites the more sensitive observer to reach out and hug the young lonely boy, who seems surrounded by an aura as heavy as Munch's silent scream, though the child’s left hand tenderly handles a rabbit.  La Musicista reveals the shadow as well as lighter side of the pert young, female musician. Endza’s more colourful Ragazzo con Fiori also depicts a dual facial aspect. Mother and Child, by the same artist, displays a more ethereal and maternal manner.
An enigmatic figure in Zhora’s (b.1990) decorative Il Ritorno del Figlio Prodigo, tightly holds a young person to their heart. Possibly the figure represents all of us, while the frontal patterned fabric symbolises layers of challenges overcome by this returning son in  the arms of the Father. This young artist’s other paintings include the feathery Icarus, falling headlong into his self-inflicted ignorance of his father’s advice not to fly too close to the sun. Nervi and Tristezza closely display the emotions described by their titles. 
A darker, more somber effect emanates from the paintings by Ashot Grigoryan (b.1983), where vague reminiscences of cartone or pentimenti are juxtaposed with unusual objects, providing unusual viewpoints. His artworks include La Coppia with Renaissance collar ruffs, architecture, horse silhouettes and mysterious symbols. La Donna and La Cameriera are his own interpretations of idealised women employed as domestic staff, rather like Vermeer’s Girl with the Pearl Earring and the observer muses and puzzles over the circular objects or symbols.
The Italian artists Stefan Davidson (b.1962) and Francesca Agostini (b.1978) reveal their Roman heritage in their work. Davidson is also a writer, while his series of five poker card players titled Il Giocatore depict his realism and life study talents. Agostini has studied Archeology and Fresco Restoration as is depicted in her rendering of fresh primary colours on a lighter ground as in Silenzio. 
The exhibition is open up to the end of August at Opus 64 Galerie, 64, Tigné Street, Sliema. Opening  hours: Monday to Friday: 10:30 – 13:00 and 16:30 – 19:00, Saturday: 10.30 – 13:00 (; Facebook: Opus 64 Galerie).