Tonio Mallia

Tonio Mallia has been actively pursuing a unique creative vision for the past 30 years. Born in Malta in 1955, he began his artistic career as a painter of landscapes in watercolours, a medium with which he has continuously experimented and through experience perfected within his working methods. His subsequent masterly handling of his work has allowed him to confidently and more fully realise the potential of this most versatile and unforgiving of media.

WW Exhibition - 2013 
Tonio is willing to discard convention in order to more effectively realise an image to its fullest impact, utilising alternative media as is immediately noticed in his trademark large-scale pictures of mixed media on textured rice-paper. The bold use of composition and dramatic lighting help to create an atmosphere of intense scrutiny and almost cinematic beauty, the play between light and shadow never failing to captivate the imagination.

With great self-discipline and introspection, Tonio has unfailingly continued to evolve in the representational field, consumed by a painfully truthful understanding of human nature while propelled by a deep empathy and yearning for the divine, which can only be expressed through his art. This on-going struggle to realise the ethereal can only be achieved by working with the constraints of the physical reality of painting.

Moving on from his earlier works, Tonio has recently become more than ever absorbed by the tension inherent in the dual nature of mankind, an honest evaluation of a transient existence as well as an evocation to the heroic potential of human choice.

However Tonio is not idealistic or naive in this appeal. His are bleak visions of a world in conflict that has already passed, or might one day be. He is not a history painter, nor is he interested in the comfortable specificities of the past, the distance that separate us from our ancestors and fill us with a misguided conception that we are somehow fundamentally different or better.

Tonio brings to life this turmoil that rages within each and every one of us, through the reality of paint he highlights our transient reality as beings of choice, as people both fatally flawed and filled with redemptive hope, each of us so cursed and yet so beautiful.

EARTH Exhibition - 2015
After a period of much development and experimentation with other universal themes (war, religion and history), in this series of paintings Tonio returns to the theme of the landscape, revealing his preoccupying concern with the natural forces and cycles that shape his island-homeland.

The elemental factors of the sun, sea and wind, the earth and the sky, are combined through a lucid handling of the aqueous water mediia, utilising a refined technique which the artist has honed after an extensive practice that spans many years and initially inspired by the artists William Thon and John Blockley.

In these latest works Tonio has, as in his early paintings, introduced the rich darkness and textural versatility of Indian ink in order to further heighten the stark contrasts between light and shade and more accurately depict the harsh lighting conditions of the outdoors and achieve strong tonal contrasts reminiscent of the deep shadows created by the strong local sunlight.

Using such mixtures of inks and paints in order to achieve multi-layered washes, where vivid hues could enlighten otherwise sombre washes, Tonio encapsulates the somewhat melancholic, often dramatic and always surprising and turbulent coastal landscape of the Maltese islands. Through the fluid medium of paint, he evokes the stoic rigidity and weight of the eternal rocks that seem to bear witness to all history and stand steadfast through the storms of time.

George Micallef-Eynaud