Malta Diary Searching for the soul – “the ultimate layer underneath the skin” Ray Piscopo’s paintings of haunting qualities
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Professor Oliver Friggieri, a Maltese poet, novelist, literary critic and philosopher who relentlessly promoted the Maltese Language, sadly passed away recently on 21st November and was given a State Funeral while a project is in hand to erect a State Memorial to him.
Once, reviewing the work of artist and painter RAY PISCOPO he wrote:
“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.”
About his paintings he went on to write:
“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.
Ray Piscopo’s introduction to the world of art can be traced back to the early 1970’s 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. Ray 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 Ray Piscopo won the 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 Ray 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, by profession, Ray Piscopo is 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 by great responsibility. At its peak we employed almost 3,000 people and work was continuous throughout the whole year.
This plant contains hundreds of latest microchip manufacturing machines and the demand for electricity and water is vast, as well as air conditioning that is required for machines and chips and energy and water services for a myriad of offices and activities with a considerable amount of qualified maintenance staff that had to be coordinated in shifts. In this respect the facility was the first microelectronic site in the world to be certified to EMAS (Eco-Management Audit Scheme) and received the US-EPA Stratospheric Ozone Protection award for its excellence in reducing green house gas emissions.
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.
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.
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 Cafe’ 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 is currently the artist-in-residence at the prestigious Phoenicia Hotel in Valletta and his works can be viewed live at his personal Art Gallery in Marsa or else viewed online at www.raypiscopo.com, www.piscopoart.com or on Instagram and Facebook. The website includes also free online access to a virtual exhibition OPUS 20XX where over 90 of his latest works can be viewed in the comfort of the home.
“A full stomach does not fill an empty one”
Criticism of instances where the rich do not help the poor because as their stomach is filled they care little for those who are hungry on an empty stomach.