Il-Ħabba tal-Għajn, a solo exhibition by Alex Dalli taking place at the Malta Society of Arts’ Galleries between 8 and 28 June in Valletta, follows the painter’s journey from the figurative into the abstract. Sitting at the cusp between the Modern and the Contemporary, Dalli’s practice has evolved, over 45 years, from a desire to escape the difficult conditions of childhood to a deeper concern with the spiritual in art.
As Alex Dalli developed as an artist, his gaze turned from the external to the internal and his work necessitated a parallel shedding of form in order to express subtle ideas, feelings, and abstract concepts. His sensitivity to colour and surface drove him to develop the minimal style that he is now known for.
Dalli’s images merge the personal and the universal with a special focus on the small and the unseen. He thinks of the creative act in cosmic terms. “Just as I myself grow, and the world develops around me, I also want to grow things and nourish that human creative ability, which mirrors the first act of creation,” he says. Nevertheless, Dalli couches his minimalism in a language of humility, seeing his role as artist in reductive terms, where he chips away at his subject until an essential and unostentatious core of truth is reached.
The curator of the exhibition Gabriel Zammit offers some context to Dalli’s journey from his beginnings to Il-Ħabba tal-Għajn. “In history and literature, there is an archetype of the poet/artist who, as he gradually goes blind and loses sight of the external world, gains a deeper, steadier, internal sight. Homer, for example, went blind, as did Jorge Luis Borges, James Joyce and John Milton,” explains Zammit. He goes on to disclose that Alex Dalli is also slowly losing his sight. “As Alex goes blind to the world around him, his paintings open, through the deep darkness, a single bright eye (għajn), which has the capacity to pare back and reveal the centre (ħabba) and the hidden reality of things. Il-Ħabba tal-Għajn follows the artist’s long walk down the luminescent corridors of his own blindness.”
The exhibition takes its cue from Michael Zammit’s Għana ’l Hena (APS, 2005), which is a cycle of poetry inspired by Sanskrit philosophy and mantra meditation. Zammit uses language to do the same thing Dalli does with paint, and his words provide a context and touchstone for reading Dalli’s intricately coded images.
MSA President Arch. Adrian Mamo states that the Malta Society of Arts is delighted to be hosting yet another of Dalli’s solo exhibitions after 2019’s Preżenza. “Alex has professed that the space we have here at Palazzo de La Salle is not just a canvas for his works, but is actually an inspiration for him in and of itself. It makes us to proud to be hosting the works of an important contemporary artist like Alex, and we invite you all to visit,” he concludes.
Il-Ħabba tal-Għajn, an exhibition by Alex Dalli and curated by Gabriel Zammit, opens between 8 and 28 June 2023 at the Art Galleries of the Malta Society of Arts, 219 Republic Street, Valletta. Entrance is free. For more details about the exhibition please visit https://artsmalta.org/event/il-habba-tal-ghajn-exhibition-by-alex-dalli/ or the Facebook event https://fb.me/e/2zSnJkrZQ