“Artists must not play safe when they’re creating: they cannot afford to be afraid of making mistakes, but they must dare to take their work to the edge. It is only when it plummets over the edge, when you think you’ve just ruined it that the actual magic happens. When you fan your hands over your head and shriek, because you believe you’re beyond the point of no return and you’re about to go into damage control mode, it is only there that the miracle happens.”

Thus painter extraordinaire Paul Cosquieri, ‘Cosqui’ to the art world, reveals his secret for rising above the mediocrity of mass production in the “ruthless art world”, in order to create memorable masterpieces of true art. Paul will spearhead the new Culture Services initiative to boost the GEMA gallery space with monthly exhibitions held in its historical settings at Montagu Bastion with his solo opening in February, featuring much anticipated new work in his unique style, departing from his iconic Rock face textured abstract extravaganza. He will show – and sell – a handful of very large paintings in the style of his opus magnum permanently exhibited in the University’s lounge.

This was commissioned to him because of his ability to work larger than life, under the large theme Gibraltar, the only rule being it had to feature the color scheme blue-teal-yellow, chosen by the interior decorators for the soft furnishing in the hall – with the added bonus of a splash of burgundy, just because “the painting was asking for it”.

“This work is targeted at students with unadulterated minds, who will spend a lot of time in that room. It is designed to be a picture that they can explore day in day out and always discover new information in it – whether a photograph, a headline in the Chronicle snippets, or a telephone number from the yellow pages, so that they can continuously learn history from the different stories it is made of,” Paul says.

The idea burst out of Paul’s mind so naturally and spontaneously that he needed no preparatory sketches – but he had to carry out extensive research at the National Archives and the Gibraltar Museum, thanking Anthony Pitaluga and the Finlaysons for granting access to their material: “I took photographs of exhibits, copied old newspapers and telephone directories and printed them in A3 format to paste them on the panels.”

The painting is a whopping 8 by 2.38 metres and it is made up of seven panels that Paul lay down on the floor of a studio that Culture Services purposely allocated to him: “It fitted just right, with a few centimeters to spare for me to walk around it and ‘attack’ it with a long brush, and sometimes a broom.” After three coats of primer, Paul covered the entire surface in torn Chronicle pages, painted over it and added more Chronicles, torn yellow pages and telephone directories (and just to prove that great minds think alike, let’s mention how Our Identity National Day exhibition’s winner Michele Stagnetto applied a similar technique in her prophetic Progress). After another coat of paint to give it texture, Paul eventually went for the cameo photographs of pivotal moments in Gibraltar’s history, from Nana to Sir Joshua Hassan.

Cold Gold

Paul cannot stress enough how this is not a mural but a painting: “A mural is a small idea blown to bigger proportions with the help of a grid, while my painting is born large to be able to bear a lot of detail.” If there is a nod to Jackson Pollock in the style, there is a perhaps subconscious ambition to make it long-lasting, if not immortal, like Picasso’s Guernica. In fact, a mural’s life is just as long as the wall’s, while these panels are secured by carpentry and can be translated elsewhere in a few hours.

Untitled Painting

It doesn’t end here: COSQUI will also enjoy a solo of smaller artwork at the Fine Arts Gallery in Casemates, and he’s spent the last months of 2018 around the United Kingdom to participate in exhibitions and art fairs. In late November, together with fellow cutting-edge geniuses Ambrose Avellano and Shane Dalmedo, Paul travelled to Manchester, sponsored by the Kishin Alwani Foundation, and later to Edinburgh for its art fair. “This is like any trade fair, but focusing solely on art, and it gives artists and the general public the chance to see what is cooking in the art world, exchange ideas, network, and of course give exposure to their own.”

And if you assumed that Cosqui would take a break after March, you are wrong: it fell on Paul to paint the portrait of former Bayside headmaster Joe Romero, as part of teacher Peter Parody’s project to display portraits of past Bayside headmasters painted by high caliber artists in the new school’s hall.

“To me Peter is the top artist, second only to Christian Hook. He is very technical and precise, unlike me, as I work more on a whim. Given the nature of the commission, this won’t be my usual in-your-face abstract, but I will not forsake my style, in capturing not just the likeness, but the character as well.”

No sneak peek now alas: the public will have to wait for the September unveiling – so watch this space.