Sahha - Press Release

Consult a map of the Mediterranean. Observe the boot of Italy kicking the jagged stone of Sicily into the Tyrrhenian Sea. Then drop your eye south by a half-degree's latitude - and pause your gaze on the tiny rock of Malta at 36 North.

You've found the source of Mark Gerada's bloody Australian art.

In the guts and the brain of this olive-toned australian, ancestral memories of malta haunt every facet of his multi-dimensional creativity - across architecture, film-making, set design, painting and his day job of graphic illustration.

Mostly, these are not his own memories - they're stories told and tattered letters, photographs and mementoes kept by his parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles. All faintly suggestive of their fears and prejudices from many years ago.

In the middle of last century, after the devastating bombing of the Second World War, three generations of his family said goodbye to their homeland and boarded ships to sail to the other side of the world.

Their goal was to foster new lives of prosperity for their children in Australia - far from Malta's infertile lands and the military attacks which are the history and destiny of this strategically significant island where the population is tinted by Arab, Spanish, African, Italian, French and British blood.

Mark Gerada was born in Sydney in 1968 but has travelled back there several times to learn about his ancestors and the way the community lives. He continues to be drawn there, despite a sense of relief that his antipodean birthplace allows him to explore contemporary life and art - unconfined by the life and economy of an agricultural village.

Although his art must be read as a catharsis of familial emotions, it's surprisingly seductive to observers who don't share Mark Gerada's mental baggage. At the opening of his first Boutwell Draper exhibition, Where's My Home? in March 2002, a throng of fans literally bustled to buy his textured, texted and collaged red canvases. This kind of scene is uncommon at launches for Australian artists of any age.

From his last show to this one, named Sahha (goodbye/good health), Mark Gerada's art has matured. Previously, his canvases were laden with emotion - in edges, forms, layers and post-modern embellishments. But in this collection his works are cooler, more disciplined, more refined, and more representative of his progressive artistic pursuits in cinematography, architecture and graphics for style magazines.

At the age of 34, his mind appears to be reconfiguring. Perhaps the past is being purged and the future is claiming him.

Davina Jackson