Introduction by Nicholas Depiro
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Richard Saliba is too well known for me to start off by saying that he is younger than I am, and that as long ago as in 1960 he was being trained as an artist. If you wish to read his impressive C.V. with its international flavour, you have it in your brochure. I just need to comment on those last three lines: “The works presented at this exhibition attempt to bring to the attention of the public the charm of the Maltese landscape.” Now listen to this, “…and the need to protect this in the face of increasing threats largely motivated by an insatiable greed for profit.”
Do you hear it? You can see it. We have here, right here, the heartbeat of an angry young man and the wisdom of a mature, sensitive and caring thinker (a little bit older!). He is not splashing his paints in anger – he is focused, very focused, on what he loves. If he is in pain, I like what I see – I empathise, I agree. Richard is reminding us, he is pointing at what should be. He is stimulating our love – he helps us to feel, to be nostalgic, to want Malta to stay beautiful.
The view was there when I was young
The little farmhouse on the hill
We used to walk up to the top
Along the winding path
One day the view became a blot
I can remember other times
And see a Malta gone for good
Where everything was picturesque
I promise you that this is true
I miss my Malta such a lot.
His picture of Attard Village with his typical fields in reds and pinks and brown and orange gives me an emotional shock. It is as good as eating oysters! No, it is as good as seeing somebody you have missed and really wanted to meet again. And the light in one of the Buskett pictures is so cruelly and successfully brooding that, if I saw it in somebody’s sitting room abroad after I had been away from Malta for too long, I would probably break down in a fit of nostalgia.
The Citadel of Victoria – this is my kind of picture, my kind of artist. Dwejra – I’m feeling giddy – I almost want to eat it! Fawwara – I’m going to cry. But what right have I to pin-point my favourites? Richard Saliba is eminently recognisable – sometimes. Richard Saliba is also moving on, and he is doing it well. I don’t really want him to move away from what moves me, but, he is an artist, and an artist is an artist. He is forever searching. An artist’s gotta do what an artist’s gotta do!
Our world moves on at so much speed
Nobody now takes any heed
Soon Malta’s style will not exist
And we had better know it
You’ll only dream it if you’re pissed
Or a sentimental poet
I’ve looked for it in Paceville
At St Paul’s Bay my heart stood still
I recall towns and all those lands
Our fathers worked with their bare hands
I’ve smelled the scents; I’ve tasted all
I’ve heard and seen and cried: “St Paul
We are so blind, you’re Heaven sent
It was right here and then it went
Bring back our old environment
St Paul please, please, I am,
I am Maltese.”
Ladies and gentlemen, I dedicate those lines to Richard Saliba. We should all be proud of him. It gives me pleasure to declare his exhibition open.