Generation - Press Release

There's another dry island, far from Malta in the southern seas, which some tens of thousands with Maltese blood call home. It was there - Australia - to the new red-rooved suburbs of Sydney, that Mark Gerada's grandparents and parents sailed to build a new life after the Second World War ended. 

Having survived the death and deprivations of war, they were people who knew how to treasure their lives and their children, and how best to build a new life for their families. They took a chance on Australia's suburban dream, the quarter-acre block, and bought one-way tickets to the new country. 

In the Geradas’ new home, some things were the same, some were not. In Australia they found a wealth of opportunities under spacious blue skies, they found even modest suburban backyards had big green lawns for the kids. They rediscovered stability and a future in which the next generation could dream their own dreams. There was hope. 

But there was also tradition and a strong sense of continuity. The men of Mark's family brought to their new home their love of cars, their prized craft of carpentry; the women brought their skill as seamstresses and as wonderful cooks. They all carried with them their love of the sea, carving out a new tradition in which the whole family decamped from the suburbs to spend summer holidays by the beach in Narrabeen in Sydney's north. Beachside family gatherings would swell with friends and visitors, and there was always freshly caught seafood and plenty of it for everyone. 

These happy childhood memories are woven together in Mark's Generation paintings, which incorporate wonderful old images from photographs that his grandfather Paul Bonello and father Vic Gerada - gifted, if unacknowledged artists in their own right - took during his 1970s childhood. Working on 60 canvases simultaneously, Mark worked the photographic images into collages, combining them with layers of paint and bright colour. 

In Mark's memories, his childhood is an almost miraculously peaceful time, a stable earthing point from which the adult artist's clear-eyed view of the wider world could emerge and grow. The troubles of that wider world were to impress themselves on him with shocking force on 7 July 2005. 

Mark was heading through London on his way to the Isle of Skye in Scotland that morning of the Tube terrorist bombings. He was going there to work on a series of landscape studies for painting and video works, yet after the bombings he arrived in Scotland reeling, doubting the utility of art, distracted with worry for his friends in London. But there the ancient landscape - so pristine and so distant from the insanity of religious violence - reaffirmed the fundamentals of life, and the necessity of art. 

Since leaving Scotland, he also filmed footage in Vietnam, Malta, Norway, New York and Australia for the resultant video piece, Mounds and Caves. In it, Mark meditates on the hope for humanity's spiritual reconnection with the natural world; to a pre-religious experience of life before religion's divisions and hypocrisies set us against ourselves. 

Complex and mysterious channels connect a carefree childhood in Sydney's suburbs with the past and present realities of war and violence. Must freedom be predicated on the grim necessity of war? The Maltese people, who endured the most intensive bombing campaign in the earth's history, know the answers to that better than most. 

Kelsey Munro