Joseph Barbara, a true dream colour expressionist, in his works of art, as much as any splash of colour can be visually fascinating ! A living contrast to his surreal works as Artist Joseph Barbara is an amazingly structured and organized individual. Joseph was born on the 13th September 1948 in Hamrun. Upon meeting and spending some time with Joseph, one would describe him as a soft-spoken individual emanating a calm aura around him. He studied Art at the State School of Art from 1967 to 1972 under Carmenu Mangion (1905 – 98). Also between 1965 and 1971 he completed an apprenticeship in steelwork, sheet metal work and welding and became a tradesman at the Malta Dry-docks Corporation.

In 1972 – 73 Joseph traveled to Sweden and lived there for a year. From there he moved to England and spent the next two years practicing his skills and widening his knowledge both in his work and his art. As a sheet metal worker he regularly sketched workmates during mid-day break. It was a valuable practice since there were over five hundred people working for the company.

After returning to Malta, Joseph started teaching sheet metal work and welding at Umberto Calosso Trade School. There in his free time he began to experiment with constructions from scrap materials, while in the evenings he sketched tourists in hotels, restaurants and bars around Malta. After twenty years Joseph decided to stop teaching and dedicate all his time to his art.

Art for Joseph is as rich as the background for each of his paintings, one must appreciate the hours of reading entailed to acquire the vast knowledge which is needed to enable him to create his work with so much attention to detail also in his semi-surreal work. When left to his own devices Joseph likes to paint in a surrealistic and prismatic style. One particular English client commissioned him to read a specific book and put his interpretation on canvas. It took Joseph over three months of hard work, but once finished the client was very pleased. He also creates extraordinary metal sculptures. The beauty of his paintings may well be attributed to rich periods of inspiration in Joseph Barbara’s life.

In the Eighties Joseph began experimenting with plastic water bottles, knowing that they are non-recyclable and therefore a hazard to the environment. It is amazing to see the stunning figure sculptures Joseph creates from cutting, straightening, shaping, forming, molding and stapling or stitching these bottles together !

For the past sixteen years, Joseph Barbara has been producing calendars every year showing prints of his paintings, drawings and photographs. These range from pastel drawings of “Trades of Malta”, “Feasts of Malta” to pen and ink drawings of the twenty-eight Grandmasters. Other subjects were Maltese landmarks in prismatic style, and lately pencil drawings from old postcards, old photographs and horses.

The Three Graces

1998 was a good year for Joseph as he had the opportunity to travel to Australia for 10 weeks exhibiting his work amongst the Maltese and Australian Communities in Sydney and Melbourne. In 2001 the artist exhibited solo his works for six weeks in Schesslitz, Germany and was awarded a prize for his sculpture in stainless steel in the Malta Biennale which included artists from 105 countries. October 2002 featured another solo exhibition at the Mediterranean Conference Centre (Cotoner Hall), Valletta, May 2003 yet another exhibition at the Malta China Friendship Society, Valletta and in June he was awarded a Gold Award (1st prize in an installation made from plastic bottles named “The Three Graces”.) Travelling to Guangzhou China in November 2003, was Joseph’s next artistic adventure. Joseph and two other Maltese Artists were invited by the Guangdong People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries through the Malta China Friendship Society, in which Joseph is a committee member thus exhibiting their works in their gallery. In June 2004 some of his works with another Maltese Artist were exhibited at the Marco Polo Hotel, Kowloon, Hong Kong. In 2005 Joseph exhibited his work in 4 different exhibitions to commemorate the 25th anniversary since he started showing his work. In 2006 he was awarded the Qualifiers’ Award in the International Poster Competition greeting World Expo 2010 Shanghai. There were 2200 entries from 33 countries and only 95 were given. From these only 10 were Europeans and Joseph was one of them. In February 2007 he will be exhibiting at NUVO Art and Dine Marsascala.

Delving secretly into the phase of a beginning of a painting till the last stroke of the brush, it saddens the artist when the work comes to an end such as the ending of an enthralling book once read. But on to the next ‘story’ such as a personal description of a book expressed in acrylics.

Throughout most of his life, inspirations to create a piece of work have never lacked. If he had to summarize what truly inspired him, most definitely they would be his personal dreams, which come to his very vividly and the subjects are of a very interesting and unusual nature. This might be the result of reading historical, mythical, occult and science-fiction books. Once the painting has been formed and set up in his mind, Joseph uses his knowledge from reading and his imagination to further enhance laying out his dreams on canvas.

Joseph’s aim in life is to improve his art work, travel, read and learn whilst helping others.

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