This September, the Gibraltar Fine Arts Gallery, under the direction of Gino Sanguinetti, is home to the 7th Annual ‘Our Gibraltar’ exhibition, showcasing local art and photography.
The works of more than 70 Gibraltarian painters, sculptors and photographers are on display at the Fine Arts Gallery in Casemates Square, with each piece conveying a personal vision of their homeland. They have adopted an array of styles and techniques which take the observer to different corners of the Rock, each containing instantly recognisable symbols (the omnipresent Rock of Gibraltar, the macaques, monuments, and the natural sites). But there are also unknown faces, memories of times gone by and soul-filled corners of Gibraltar, which sometimes go unnoticed.
The exhibition has been called “Our Gibraltar”, showcasing the works of artists for the annual Art and Photography Competition, and was opened to the public at the end of August 2020, remains open until September 25th, 2020, Monday to Friday, from 10:00 – 14:00 and from 15:00 – 18:00.
The Exhibition is organised by Gibraltar Cultural Services in collaboration with the Gibraltar Fine Arts Association and the Gibraltar Photographic Society, and is a must-visit for art enthusiasts. Thankfully, despite restrictions, it has been able to open its doors this summer, but without the traditional ‘grand opening’ to the general public under hygiene and safety measures.
A piece entitled “Parklife” won the first prize of £2,000, and it has already been bought by the Ministry of Culture. The painting powerfully attracts attention in the corner of the main hall of the Gallery. This piece by Chrisanne and Ava Ullger depicts an empty bench on the so-called “Jewish Park”, in front of the Holy Trinity Anglican Church… a bench that could have been any bench, in any park, but which represents the story of a longing for lost freedom.
Gino Sanguinetti, director and soul of the gallery, explained to ReachExtra that: “during the lockdown, the artists missed that bench where they would sit in the fresh air, surrounded by the laughter of children and the bustle of everyday life… something that is both simple and yet vital; something which you would not value until it has been taken away from you.”
Recent history, Nostalgia and Creativity
In addition to the evocative “Old House, Flat Bastion Road”, by Willie Chiappe (winner of the Painting Prize), the shades of grey and blue that make up the cloudy harbour landscape of “After the Rains” also attract attention in the same room. Albert Danino received a Highly Commended award. There are many more eclectic pieces, loaded with the history of the old Casemates, adopting a mixture of different materials and references to the recent events experienced after the outbreak of the coronavirus. This is the case with “Freedom”, by Katrina Graffione and the sculpture “A day in the life of a frontline worker”, by Ambrose Avellano.
“Boys of Summer”, by Donovan Torres, took first place in the Photographic Competition. The image exudes a nostalgia, with children climbing up and down ropes of boats moored in a port. A memory which has been frozen in time, in black and white, with an almost geometric composition.
In other images, you can almost hear the echoes of conversations being had in the patios of yesteryear, or the silence of some hidden alleyway, or doors and walls with worn paint; not necessarily better than now, but bursting with individual and collective memories.
“When it comes to nostalgia, you have to be careful because we tend to idealise and opt for a more romantic vision of the past, which were not always better times… Undoubtedly, there were good things in the patios of the Gibraltar of the 40’s and 50’s, but there were difficult moments too; not everything was a bed of roses,” Sanguinetti warned.
This year, more than ever, the “Our Gibraltar” exhibition has been a collective reflection on the Rock and our own identity. “Creativity is always an escape valve in difficult times… and this has always been the case, although Gibraltar is still, deep down, a fortress, with a history in which there have been much tougher times of confinement, and let us just say that the population are assuming that there may be further periods of this to come… but it will pass. Everything passes,” reflects Sanguinetti, who also said that times confinement tend to be fruitful for artists, whatever their mode of expression.