Where Rooftops meet Nature 01 February 2020

One of Malta’s most important twentieth-century artists, Esprit Barthet’s oeuvre is incredibly diverse, ranging from portraits and nudes to Cézannesque still-lives to abstract works; from his celebrated Mari tal-Bajd to his series of Maltese ‘Rooftops’. The Victor Pasmore Gallery is proud to exhibit Abstracted Landscape, a work that is essentially a continuation of the aforementioned ‘Rooftops’ series. Intriguingly, whereas Barthet’s ‘Rooftops’ do not include anything else apart from rows of ordinary buildings, in this work these buildings are depicted amidst a number of trees. It is a work that can thus be understood as a representation of the marriage between Malta’s natural landscape and our built environment; a coming together of the traditional, idyllic landscape painting and a modernist rendition of mundane rooftops.

Perhaps, through this work Barthet intended to communicate to the viewer a mourning of the loss of nature or, conversely, a celebration of modernism. Perhaps it is simply a matter-of-factly rendition of the often turbulent co-existence of nature and modernist buildings, the latter often controversially replacing the former.

Within the Victor Pasmore Gallery, amidst the work and philosophy of Pasmore, the Abstracted Landscape creates an intriguing paradox. Whereas Pasmore insisted that his process of abstraction did not originate from nature but rather, independently, from within, Barthet’s quasi-abstract composition evidently found its starting point in the physical world. Much like J. M. W. Turner, whom Pasmore greatly admired, Barthet starts from the world we can all see and ends with a vision unique to himself. This picture thus frames within it a glimpse into the multifaceted, singular vision of one of Malta’s greatest exponents of modernism.

At the Victor Pasmore Gallery, we are intent on not only honouring the work and legacy of the great Englishman, but also that of his Maltese contemporaries. In addition to past and future exhibitions, lectures and events which promote the work of Maltese twentieth-century artists, as from February 2020 we are introducing a new, ongoing project; ARTPICK. Every month, a different work by a different modern master will be picked to be exhibited at the Victor Pasmore Gallery for an entire month, juxtaposed against the permanent collection of Pasmore’s work. Our first ARTPICK is an Abstracted Landscape by Esprit Barthet (1919-1999) and will be on view till the 27th of February 2020.

Written by Samuel Casha