Captivating and Mysterious: Exploring Ray Piscopo’s Paintings in Malta

Written by Albert Fenech
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“Searching for the soul in Ray Piscopo’s paintings in Malta”

Professor Oliver Friggieri, a Maltese poet, novelist, literary critic and philosopher who relentlessly promoted the Maltese Language, sadly passed away in 2020. He was given a State Funeral and a new project to erect a State Memorial to him is in the works.

 

 

Paintings of Haunting Qualities – About His Paintings He Went on to Write:

Friggieri wrote about the painter Ray Piscopo:

“Whoever follows the artistic journey of Ray Piscopo will eventually notice that under the new forms apparently defying any classification, and beyond the appearance of figures of diverse nature, both human and non-human, there is always the artist in search of something,” wrote Friggieri.

“They are no reproductions of visual experience. They somehow look like X-rays, the ultimate layer underneath the skin, the subtle document of a condition meant to be the final one, the edge, the impenetrable wall beyond which the traveller finds himself at the cross roads; the all or nothingness.  In other words, he seeks to penetrate the outer shell, hopefully to discover meaning.

I am not artistic enough to appreciate the depth of this but from my layman’s vision I interpret this to mean that viewing one of Piscopo’s paintings, one does not actually see a static picture but one that is alive with all sorts of creations. A casual glance may result in one thinking this is just a jumble of splashed paints to fill a canvas. However, on closer look I can see several figures of dogs, humans, fish and others, all so cleverly intertwined.

His whole point is not just the initial visual but that of searching beyond the visual to understand the real meaning.

This may raise the hackles of many, but in my humble opinion he is currently the greatest living artist of the Maltese Islands!

His Bio

Ray Piscopo’s introduction to the world of art can be traced back to the early 1970s when as a student at secondary school he was tutored by Antoine Camilleri (1922 – 2005), considered to be one of Malta’s leading artists and a keen favourite with art lovers. Piscopo still cherishes the memory of those initial impulses.

Later he attended life classes for a three-year period under the supervision of Anton Calleja, another well-known artist in his own right who regards the human figure as an essential tool in academic training and followed this by attending at Luciana Notturni’s workshop on mosaics in Ravenna, Italy.

Then for three years he followed classes at the Mosta Institute of Arts and Design in ceramics under the tutorship of George Muscat.

As one of his earliest successes, Piscopo won second prize in an art competition from the 3°Premio Piero Della Francesca in Arezzo, Italy.

To strengthen his overseas experience in 2009 he followed a three weeks art master class in Salzburg, Austria with Hubert Scheibl, a foremost artist in Austria. He used a style much similar to artist Gerhard Richter, a style that employs scraping over layers and layers of paint.

A year later he attended another master class session at the SommerAkademieVenedig, Italy, with the renowned Senegalese artist Amadou Sow who is best known for his micro painting techniques.

Fifteen years ago Piscopo served as a member of a specially formed Healing Arts Committee through the Foundation for Medical Services, entrusted with the embellishment of public spaces within Mater Dei Hospital with suitable art works. The Committee commissioned MCAST art students to create 615 works and also organised a public competition for the main theme: A Madonna for Mater Dei Hospital.

Contrastingly enough, the artist is also a top class qualified electrical engineer and for many years we were colleagues at Malta’s largest microelectronics manufacturing plant STMicroelectronics where Ray was Plant Facilities Manager, a job loaded with great responsibility. At its peak we employed almost 3,000 people and work was continuous throughout the whole year.

His Career

Combining the two talents of engineering and arts Ray epitomised the proof that science and art as much as science and religion are not only related but somehow auxiliary to each other.

His evolution in phases can be classified as follows:

Malta theme

Figurative

Panorama

Religious

Recent styles

Various subjects

Latest style

During varied phases in his career as an artist Ray, tried various media starting with oils, then passing on to watercolours and gouache that he considers fascinating and actually using acrylics which he finds quite suitable in working with the brush as rapidly as possible. In recent years Ray has been using liberally mixed media on canvas and has returned to the use of oil paint.

Worth Seeing When Visiting 

He has been very successful in solo and collective art shows at prestigious venues, both in Malta and abroad. His paintings are also found in private art collections in Malta, Italy, Ireland, Austria, England, France, Norway, Canada, Australia, and the United States of America.

He has ably coordinated and acted as curator of 24 art exhibitions for the Orange Grove Art Café at the Corinthia Palace Hotel & Spa in Attard. In this period, each of the 24 different artists were given the chance to exhibit paintings, photographs and sculptures for a whole month

Ray has also been the artist-in-residence at the Corinthia Palace Hotel as well as at the prestigious Phoenicia Hotel in Valletta and at the Cavalieri Arts Hotel, St Julians. His works can be viewed live at his personal Art Gallery in Marsa or else viewed online at www.raypiscopo.com, or on Instagram and Facebook. The website includes  free online access to a virtual exhibition OPUS 20XX where over 90 of his latest works can be viewed.

***

BeSeeingYou In: Malta

Good To Know: He’s a painter who combines engineering skills with art

WOW! Factor: Wide variety of subjects and styles

TIP: His extensive works are hung in many buildings around Malta, including his own studio

Author Bio: Albert Fenech

 

Maltese Saying

“A full stomach does not fill an empty one”

Criticism of instances where the rich do not help the poor because as long as their own stomach is filled, they care little for those who are hungry and on an empty stomach.

 

Albert Fenech
Born in 1946, Albert Fenech’s family took up UK residence in 1954 where he spent his boyhood and youth before temporarily returning to Malta between 1957 and 1959 and then coming back to Malta permanently in 1965. He spent eight years as a full-time journalist with “The Times of Malta” before taking up a career in HR Management and Administration with a leading construction company building the Benghazi Hospital in Libya, later with Malta Insurance Brokers, Malta’s leading insurance Broker and finally STMicroelectronics Malta, employing 3,000 employees and Malta’s leading industrial manufacturer. Throughout he actively pursued freelance journalism and broadcasting for various media outlets covering social issues, current affairs, sports and travel. He was Publications Editor for the Malta Football Association for 25 years and has written for a number of publications both in Malta and overseas, as well as publishing two e-books.

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