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Winged Migration

The Paris-based Maltese painter Goxwa, takes a well-needed break after exhibiting at the Art Paris Art Fair and months of preparing for her New York exhibition

I met with the artist and her muse, Pipo the peppy Boston Terrier, on a hot windy afternoon in Sliema and, after a bit of banter about heat, dogs and coffee, we embark on our conversation about her new art pieces in transit to New York where they will be exhibited.

The wax-and-oil-based medium Goxwa uses requires a lot of energy and physical strength. She tells me how she works on extremely taut and stretched canvas placed against a wall, like the fresco masters of the past, and that her starting point is always a black background.

She talks about her studio in Paris with great affection – a working space that comes to life when she invites her model to join her – it becomes a space for memories, imagination and inspiration to merge into her creations. The model and the artist have an exclusive bond stemming from their silent relationship. The girl, who was a mere nine years old when they met, is Goxwa’s only model.

The new exhibition pieces are a mixture of girls, women, children, landscapes, flowers, walls, birds and a bit of canine. Those who follow Goxwa’s work will not be disappointed: the styles and depth of colour taken from nature – reminiscent of Pompeii frescos – appear to emerge from the decaying backdrops.

Pipo lies asleep in a graceful bundle on the mat behind us and Goxwa divulges: “I am not a painter of dogs, but now I have a dog of course I paint him. Dogs have a very human-like nature and here I make Pipo’s eyes as human as I see them.” She does not disagree with me when I say that I see a resemblance in the eyes in Portrait of Pipo to those in Marilyn in the Studio.

This is the newest of a series of the fable of Marilyn Monroe. I ask the artist why she depicts Marilyn in this particular pose, which strikes such a sad chord in me? Goxwa replies: “This painting of Marilyn is all about how the light inside the woman persists and shines, how the little girl in her cannot be diminished, even though she holds her pain in a protective self-embrace.”

I love how Goxwa paints women: each one is unique, and each conveys a purpose: she starts with the face and the rest follows. The Girl Behind the Last Door, Ready for the Festa and La Parfumeuse are examples of the study of the feminine nature.

The Girl Behind the Last Door holds such a beautiful expression in her face which keeps the viewer staring at it before appreciating the full picture. I ask Goxwa about this girl: “She is in love”, she says, “a first love that will not last of course, that’s why there is the whimsical dress, fading into nothingness.”

Ready for the Festa is an image from the past, it is a cultural reference to the girls in the villages in Malta all dressed up for their village feast, but this little girl has Pipo with her, bringing her into the present.

Goxwa explains that gold has been prevailing in her recent work and that the flyaway strands of golden hair seen in La Parfumeuse represents how the girl, who gathers flowers for perfume, beholds and belongs to nature.

Children and their innocence are the subjects of Wet Sand: the young boy and girl playing in the sand and water create their intimate world of shimmering colours, and the viewer observes how the fluidity between youth and transience are both present in harmony.

Goxwa’s work shows great depth in her simple approach. There is no spectacle here, but her art – which evokes a sense of familiarity – permits us to see the insightful and intuitive nature of the artist.

Goxwa is represented in Malta by Lily Agius Gallery, (+356) 99292488,

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