From theOutside to the Inside...or the other way round by E.Fiorentino The Sunday Times,March 19, 2006
I have not been mesmerised in general by recent exhibitions as much as I have been by that of Shaun Grech which is currently on display in St. James Cavalier's main hall. Before moving there it was mounted earlier this year at another venue in Valletta.
Grech, born in 1976 is a self-taught artist who over the past two years has been busily and consistently churning out a series of works that aesthetically defy much of what we normally mean by artistic expression. His work is definitely beyond our normal conception of approach with human figures.
In general Grech's work, represented by around 40 pieces executed in variousmedia but mostly in oil or acrylic on board or canvas paper, falls under thegenre of art brut which historically can be traced back to the French artist Jean Dubuffet, roughly about the middle of last century.
That was partly the outcome of the French artist being fascinated with the art of demented persons and psychotics. In the case of Grech I have no idea about what triggered him off towards his particular idiom which runs out so consistently that he has definitely managed to establish a particular character to his work.
There is much more that meets the eye in this exhibition entitled Pictures from the Outside. The titles themselves heave with disinhibition in the way that language is occasionally used. Maybe some words are slang, though they pass on the intended meaning when confronted with the images of the respective pictures. Thus we have titles like Cocktikating or Self-Pornicator.
Others are so much more soluble within our mental set-up, like Mother and Child. There is occasionally a tinge of sadness with examples like Displaced, Penchant for Solitude, Where's my Family? and Song for the Destitute.
In terms of colour, Grech possesses quite a good sense of it. Whether in light-toned examples as Penchant for Solitude or in the darkish palette of Driving on the wrong Side, the results are quite beyond his relatively young age and experience.
There is surely an element of unorthodox intellectuality within these pictures,even though there is that risk- not the artist's fault- of having visitors view them just as caricatures, which they are not. In a note appended to the exhibition one reads: "Grech prefers to steer away from disabling titles and is bent only on producing art out of necessity and unconstrained by the inflexible structures of the usual art circles".
One cannot miss the facial features. It could be hysterical faces, cat-like faces (as with Subtly Feline) or just mouth-gaping faces (with Pouring the Mundane) that achieve a sense of that disquietude by people defining their social ineptitude that Grech has come to observe. In that context I see Grech's characters as highly descriptive of what ails contemporary society in general where inter-human rapport could be missing.
With respect to the normal fare for exhibitions held locally, that by Grech,with its quest for bizarre and grotesque expression, all done purposefully, has a singluarity about it and I would not hesitate for a moment to recommend it to all others who are on the lookout to find new and unusual talent. Grech's collection is definitely one that demands attention.
The exhibition continues till next Saturday.