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CO-MA is a self-taught Maltese artist who presented his first collection of work at Lily Agius Gallery in November 2021. Devoid of colour, the artist favours a world of black and white – hence, no unnecessary distractions, just plays of light and shadow, which he uses to his advantage, almost effortlessly, to portray textures, surfaces, a healthy, vis-à-vis a decaying or rotting body. Also surprising are the plentiful references to the Old Masters, or to the occupational or psychological portraits as propagated by the Northern Renaissance artists. CO-MA’s medium of choice if charcoal. The artist’s command of his preferred medium is quite astonishing; details deserve inspection, scrutiny. He has the ability of the most seasoned of artists at understanding how and where the light hits, and where highlights need to be applied, whether this be on a tuft of hair, on a glistening areola, or on the tip of a nose. His work is deliciously and carefully orchestrated; yet it is done in a surreptitious, rather than overtly discernible manner. And his statement is clear – the body, irrespective of its outwardly beauty, is merely an object, and empty vessel. You can paint it, manipulate it, mask it. But it remains just that.

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