Beginnings are important. They pave the way and help form who we are. Born on the island of Malta at the end of the nineteen forties, I spent the first fifteen years of my life in a small town surrounded by family and churches and basking in the Mediterranean sun. Aunts and uncles, cousins and grandmothers were ubiquitous and the quaint village-town life on the island was easy going and laid back even though the islanders were recovering from years of World War II bombings, only a decade or so earlie. Stories about the war were plentiful and every single Maltese over a certain age carried salient images of the terrors of war. The church dominated everyone's life, from birth to death, at school and at home and politics was not far behind.
So how did these first dozen years impact my art making? A few things come to mind. On top of the list was my father's occupation. Like his father before him, he was a skilled craftsman. He was a decorator of churches and wealthy homes. He excelled at gilding, faux marble and faux wood and sign painting. I spent many a Saturday afternoon high up on scaffolding helping him retrieve gold leaves that had flown away from his work pad or watching him letter trucks or storefronts at breakneck speed.
Festive events such the village festa , Carnival, Christmas and Easter also contributed heavily to the my artistic curiosity.
Second in line was time spent in church as an altar boy assisting at Mass, Funerals and Baptisms. Since most churches on the island had paintings everywhere, on the ceiling and on the walls, I had plenty of time to alleviate the boredom by staring at the biblical stories and lives of saints colorfully displayed all around me. However my interest in following a career in the arts did not happen until much later. In my early boyhood years, I lived for soccer, the sea, jumping from high places, and academics; I attended the Lyceum Secondary School in Malta when I turned twelve and at age fourteen the family upped and moved to Toronto.
From There To Here
We settled in the Junction, a rough and tumble section of west end Toronto where most Maltese settled at the time, comforted by a newly built parish church, Maltese cafés, grocery stores and schools and close to High Park, one of he nicest public parks in the city. My stay in Toronto was short-lived as I decided to continue my secondary school studies at a private school in Brockville Ontario, a three and a half hour train ride from Union Station. St. Mary's College was an all boys seminary school run by a religious order preparing young men for the priesthood. It gave me an excellent education and immersed me in the Canadian culture of the day in a near perfect location bound by the St.Lawrence River and hundreds of acres of woods. Canada Steamship Lines freighters plied the waters of the seaway on the south and Canadian National and Pacific trains resounded their long lonesome whistles day and night in the north. Seminary life was great but the prospects of a career as a man of the cloth, did not. After graduation, I started my university studies at Glendon College, York University.
Halfway through my studies, I moved to Aix-en-Provence in the south of France to work on my french and supposedly to continue my studies at the université d'Aix-Marseilles. This too veered into a different path when I decided to leave the université to join the Academie des Beaux-arts d'Aix where I studied drawing and sculpture with a renowned sculptor, Francois Martinez. It was love at first sight. My life was to take a leap forward into the wonderful world of art and romance was soon to follow when I met my soul-mate at the university where I was supposed to be completing my third year. When I returned to Toronto, I finished my studies while taking art courses both at Glendon and the Ontario College of Art; my plan B of going to Law School however, was scrapped and replaced by a three-year diploma in Fine Arts at OCA and a one year Education degree at the U of T. Now I was ready to settle into a life of art-making and teaching intervened by two children who shared both the space in my studio and the joy of playing with pencils, paint and whatever they could find in my work-space.
The years have seen me exhibit my work in over one hundred solo and group shows in Canada, USA, Europe and South America; I have traveled to over fifty countries, taught in university and high school, participated in a number of arts organizations, artist-run centres, and collectives and sat on national and local art juries while continuing to invent and create hoping that my work will find its way into private, corporate and public collections. This has been and continues to be my legacy.