Laying bare the truth | Gabriel Buttigieg

Prolific young painter Gabriel Buttigieg speaks to TEODOR RELJIC about his second solo exhibition ‘Nudes’, which comes not too long after his debut a few months back and which – the artist claims – sees him trying to ‘make contact’ with the outside world

Three Nudes by Gabriel Buttigieg
Three Nudes by Gabriel Buttigieg

This new exhibition comes quite soon after your first solo show some months ago. Why did you feel the need to exhibit again so soon?

My first solo exhibition, Paintings, was held way back in February. The feedback I received provided a strong motivation for further developing my work, and I have been working hard at exploring the subject of this new exhibition, Nudes, since February. 

I tend to work in bursts, and if I strike a particularly rich vein of inspiration, I can be very productive. For this exhibition, I have chosen a mix of works on canvas and on paper. The works on paper helped me explore a style that allows me to be very free and quick in execution, and the chosen works reflect my attempt at balancing between this freedom and an effective portrayal of the subject. Over these past few months, I have worked with a particular focus for this exhibition, carefully choosing my subjects but allowing myself to try out different styles and media. I have continued working on canvas, but have done a lot of works on paper as well as a number of etchings.

Gabriel Buttigieg
Gabriel Buttigieg

Was a focus on nudes always going to be a priority for you? How did this genre become an integral part of your artistic development, and what do you find so intriguing about it?

Over the past few years that I have been painting, I have always been fascinated by the human figure. In a sense, drawing the human figure, for me, is reaching out, trying to make contact. The nude also represents the need for intimacy, the idea of closeness and the difficulties of relating. My art is about all these themes. These are the themes which at present occupy my thinking. The physicality of the nude also emphasizes the emotional aspect of my art.

'Male' by Gabriel Buttigieg
'Male' by Gabriel Buttigieg

Throughout the course of the paintings in the exhibition, you often present two different variants of the same subject. What is the reason for this?

I see my art as a journey. I’m looking for different ways of expressing my thoughts and feelings. Sometimes a particular pose strikes a note with me and I explore it by doing various versions of it. Different media, different colour schemes, different styles, all seem to impact on how the art work can be read. The small (or large) differences that come out of the various attempts also help me think about what I am doing, how my work can be improved. I like the nuances that come out of the different versions – I find them more truthful than that one ‘perfect’ version.

What’s next for you?

Once again, being at the exhibition gives me the opportunity to discuss the works with visitors. The feedback is an important way of assessing my art. The paintings work in different ways on different people and their reactions trigger more ideas in me. I am very satisfied by the reactions to this exhibition. If anything, I am raring to start another set of paintings that build on some features that I consider have been particularly successful in this exhibition.

Nudes will remain on display at Pjazza Teatru Rjal, Valletta until December 21

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