Figurative painter Gulja Holland is making her return to the local art scene following her graduation from the Royal College of Art.
Her much-anticipated solo exhibition in Malta, When Your Voice Shakes, will be held at Studio 87 in Valletta from 22nd September onward. The show is curated by Justine Balzan Demajo.
Tackling the environmental crisis in Malta, the exhibition is a commentary on construction and deforestation in Malta and what Holland views as their political roots.
The various road-widening projects carried out over the years, including the controversial Central Link project, inspired Holland to create work that challenges Malta’s collective understanding of progress.
“The political undertone of these paintings is suggested in my choice of symbols, colour palette as well as in the exhibition title, which is borrowed from a quote by the American activist Maggie Khun, founder of the Gray Panthers:
“Stand before the people you fear and speak your mind – even if your voice shakes.”
Holland’s exhibition reflects on the true cost of so-called progress, seeing as Malta’s natural environment is suffering for development.
Her previous exhibition reflected on man’s impact on the natural environment. Using the motif of trees to represent Malta’s natural heritage and a palette with varying shades of the primary colours based on Malta’s colours, this exhibition is a more localised interpretation of a global crisis.
Holland was inspired by William Blake’s quote “The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing which stands in the way… As a man is, so he sees.”
She usually starts her work by making a digital collage and sketching it on raw canvas with pencil or charcoal after. She then gradually builds up layers of acrylic paint to arrive at the final painting.
Acrylic paint has always been her preferred medium, thanks to its drying and versatile properties as well as for safety and health reasons.
Due to the pandemic, this exhibition is her first opportunity to show the paintings in the context they were inspired by.
Credit cover photo: Jamie Genovese
Will you be visiting When Your Voice Shakes in Valletta?