Artist and painter Anna Galea talks about her latest artworks and inspiration behind her pieces

  |   24 - 03 - 2016

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Anna Galea is an established Maltese artist who has exhibited her art throughout Europe and Australia. For the past two years she has been spending most of her time in Dubai.  She currently exhibits a selection of her artworks at the Clubhouse in Meydan Heights, Nad al Sheba 1.  These include watercolours as well as acrylics and oils on canvas.

How and when did your interest for painting and art form?

Ever since I can remember, I have always been into drawing and painting and anything involving creating. In whatever I do, be it dress and home styling, food preparation, entertaining, and of course painting, I have this uncontrollable urge to add and create that something which makes it more special and unique. 

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Tell us about your history and how you got to where you are today?

In my home country Malta, as a young lady it was very difficult for me to earn a living as a professional artist since Malta is a tiny island in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea with a population of just 400,000. My ambition of being able to paint ‘full time’ came about when I had to stop a regular stressful administrative job to have my first child.  I was lucky to have the strong support of my husband and since then, over the period of nearly thirty years, I have established myself as an artist with my own large studio gallery in Malta. I continued studying as a mature student and obtained a BA degree in History of Art and Archaeology and a Master’s degree in Creativity and Innovation from the University of Malta; furthermore at every opportunity, I participated in various painting workshops in the studios of the top contemporary Maltese artists,  as well as with Central St. Martins of London. 

My paintings have featured in books of the highly acclaimed International Artist publishers of USA, on telephone cards, calendars, book covers and other publications.  Some of my artworks have found home in private collections of art connoisseurs, in palaces and museums, banks and offices.

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What has inspired your work?

My works are inspired by the beauty of nature. I am, by character, an optimist who appreciates being surrounded by beauty, calm and peace.  In this world of ours where the media constantly reports on so much fighting and pain, I take refuge in creating artworks that bring about a celebration of being alive – an awareness of how much more sensible it is to embrace the beauty of nature, rather than dwell on pain, revenge and hatred.

Do you have great artists that you admire and why?

I greatly admire the painterly creativity of Van Gogh and his determination in persevering with what he believed in, in spite of being reduced to living in poverty and with the hurt of his art not being acknowledged for what it was.  I admire Matisse for his young spirit and creativity right through into his nineties.  I admire Georgia O’Keeffe whose art I was made aware of after I had already embarked on a floral style of my own.  I also like the art of Gustav Klimt, Paul Klee, David Hockney, Peter Doig and of Maltese artists Antonio Sciortino, Emvin Cremona, Alfred Chircop and Pawl Carbonaro.

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How would you describe your style?

My style keeps evolving as I have this constant need to create, and am always in search of new challenges. It also depends on the medium I am using.  I feel most at ease with watercolour which is normally considered to be a difficult medium and which is also commonly associated with weekend ‘hobby’ landscape painters.  I, on the other hand, employ watercolour quite strongly and capitalise on the translucency of this ‘magic’ medium to bring out the vibrant colour and tonal contrasts of whatever I am painting.  Furthermore, although watercolour paintings are normally relatively small, my ‘hallmark’ is giant-sized watercolour paintings where my subjects (in particular floral) are much larger than life-size. This initially presented a problem because of the non-availability of large good quality watercolour paper; however nowadays I manage to acquire rolls as big as 1.50 metres by 10 meters which I can trim and stretch to the size I want.  

Earlier, my style was mostly figurative but as I get older I find myself becoming more experimental and adventurous. I am discovering that abstracting watercolours is giving me exciting results.

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What are your greatest achievements and most memorable moments in your career?

My first great artistic achievement was the first time I went public with my paintings. I had taken part in a collective exhibition organised by the British Residents Association and to my surprise, was awarded first prize. I was bringing up two toddlers at the time and wasn’t even aware that the show was competitive!  

Since then,  I have had various important commissions and personal exhibitions.  I won the National Art Competition in 2003 and the Silver Palette Exhibition in 2002 and 2004.  I have also been invited to exhibit my art in other countries.  Another important achievement for me was my artworks being chosen and published within important art circles.  

A special memorable moment was on the opening night of my first solo exhibition in 1999 when I sold all the paintings that same night.  I fondly recall my youngest daughter (about 4 years old at the time) going around the visitors and using her charm to make some pocket money for herself by selling her own little scribbles.  Another special moment for me was when I set up and inaugurated my own large studio gallery where, besides exhibiting my paintings, I also hold regular life figure painting sessions.

Why is art important to you? 

To me art is not just my own personal passion for painting. I derive great enjoyment from viewing and interacting with the art of other artists, including sculpture, music, literature, drama, photography, architecture and design.  To me art is what gives life that special spark – the difference between just existing and experiencing life to the full.  Art and culture are, after all, what determines the greatness of a nation.

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What advice can you give a young artist?

Follow your heart and persevere routinely, daily, at creating what you are passionate about ….  but do not expect to make a lot of money through your art. 

What plans do you have coming up?

To date, I am best known for my over-sized floral watercolours, although I am also very keen on life figure and plein-air painting, as well as painting in oils, pastel and charcoal.  I am now venturing into the world of abstractions which I am finding to be very exciting. I believe that a painting career is like having a gourmet meal – you do not have dessert before experiencing the entree, starter and main course.  I feel I am now approaching dessert, and who knows, maybe in ten years’ time, even petits fours!  

I am presently residing in the UAE with frequent visits to Malta and the UK.  I am planning a major solo exhibition of very large watercolour abstractions in Malta next year.  I am also exhibiting my art in Dubai and am engaged in conducting painting workshops with one of the art creative set-ups in Arserkal Avenue. I am building up a body of artworks which I plan to exhibit in one of the major galleries in the UAE, hopefully in the near future.

www.annagalea.com