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WATCH: Young Gozitan Artist Behind Striking Lassana Cisse Church Painting Speaks On Modern Acts Of Mercy

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The artist behind a church painting that’s led to a national discussion has explained the challenges he faced and inspiration behind his already-iconic painting.

Manuel Farrugia, from Gozo, has already developed a name for himself with his incredible yet modern religious paintings.

Speaking about the challenge of creating poignant paintings in such restricted forms in an interview with Għawdex Illum, Farrugia said he had to find a way of respectfully telling the stories of his cast of characters in just one metre by one metre canvasses.

His work centres on vulnerable figures in society – such as the prisoner or the foreigner – and shows them with two figures by their side; one representing society, and one representing the church.

Emphasising how he wanted the paintings to fit in with the style of St George’s Basilica, Farrugia said that though the central figures weren’t canonised, they were representative of Jesus Christ as he would be among the most vulnerable in society.

“When it comes to art, you need to be contemporary not just in your technique, but even in the thought behind it,” he said. 

“The idea was that whoever looked at these photos would know they were made in 2021, because the subject applies today – Christ’s words apply till this very day,” Farrugia continued. “That’s why we included a woman holding a mobile in the Lassana Cisse portrait, the migrant killed in Ħal Far… the idea of the mobile was because the news often spreads via social media nowadays.”

“Anyone that looks at this photo will understand these are problems we face today.”

The Basilica’s archpriest Monsignor Joseph Curmi also spoke about the idea behind the painting.

“We decided to give the clear message of choosing to depict the face of a man whose death was prepared by society. We wanted to show that our community wants nothing to do with this sort of behaviour. The woman on the phone seeing his face has two choices: scroll up as if nothing ever happened, or react.”

Since it’s unveiling, it’s been hailed as possibly one of the best pieces of local art to come out of Malta in the last decade.

Another one of Farrugia's paintings

Another one of Farrugia's paintings

If you are a fan of Farrugia’s style, you can check out some of his other work on his official page.

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Johnathan is interested in the weird, wonderful, and sometimes dark realities late capitalist society forces upon us all. He also likes food and music. Follow him at @supreofficialmt on Instagram, and send him news, food and music stories at [email protected]

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