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Bright Young Thing

Anna Calleja - the winner of ARTZ ID’s Young Emerging Artist Call

The pandemic has had an impact on all our lives, not least final-year art students. Their graduation is usually marked by an intense period of preparation for the degree-show with which they’ll make their mark on the public. Young graduate Anna Calleja was one such student – instead of spending her final months working towards a public show at the Falmouth School of Art, she found herself back in Malta, working towards a virtual exhibition.

Photo by Matt Thomspon

Undeterred, however, she used her time productively. With a determination that comes from youth, she has since created a strong body of work for her degree show, is working towards a solo show at the Malta Society of Arts in March 2021, and, in June, won ARTZ ID’s Young Emerging Artist Call.

Although she works in various materials and has experimented with installation, printing and three-dimensional work, Calleja’s current practice sees her working mainly in oils, on relatively small, realist works. Her intense domestic scenes, reveal a sense of quiet and melancholy that strangely suits this time, when the home has become so central to all our lives.

Sleeping figures, abandoned clothes, and household pets are depicted in a subdued palette and a natural light – there is a stillness around them that seems to suspend them in an eternal silent space. To Calleja, the scenes represent a passivity and a feeling of de-activation – an absence of movement and action – that is important in each one. So, a child’s woolly jumper abandoned on a bed becomes a portrait of its absent wearer; a dog sleeping on a mat seems to be waiting to be called by its owner.

But while the works reflect an absence and a waiting, they are not disheartening – rather there is a tenderness in sleeping figures and a sense of vulnerability in their lack of awareness of the viewer.

Bodies – hands and feet detached from their owners speak of the presence of their owners too; a pair of feet resting against the taps of a bath, is titled Man in Bath – in Calleja’s work, the parts speak for the whole.

Calleja is comfortable with the fact that she has returned to painting. She tells me that following an intense period in the UK of experimenting with many different techniques, she found that painting best articulated what she had to say. Here she is not alone – as she herself points out, many of her fellow students have ‘returned’ to painting in an almost reverse-rebellion of contemporary art.

As a young artist, Calleja is at the beginning of her journey. Her practice is quietly mature and promises much more. Hopefully the introspection of recent months will provide her with the strength to  follow her chosen path – we look forward to seeing how a bright talent unfolds.

Anna Calleja is winner of ARTZ ID’s Young Emerging Artist Call in collaboration with Lily Agius Gallery, Artpaper, Intervisions and photo ink. Her solo show at the Malta Society of Arts will run from 4 – 25 March 2021 at the Malta Society of Arts.

Photo by Matt Thompson

Images: Matt Thompson

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