Reality with a magic touch - E.V. Borg

Behind a relaxed, warm, compelling smile Andrew Micallef conceals contagious enthusiasm and total commitment for his love of nature and fine graphic qualities – a suitable medium to express his feelings.

Alert, sharp, intelligent and highly sensitive his eyes dart, zoom, focus and twinkle in response to the explicit curiosity and interest demonstrated by his patrons and clients. Andrew loves music too. Such studies are the basis of his discipline and control in composition, balance and harmony. The magic in his music pervades his graphic rendition.

Kind, gentle, elegant and charismatic he reveals an explicit precocity for drawing, sketching and design. In Indian ink, pen and wash he weaves an arras of magic thread.

With audacious dexterity, sleight and nimble fingers he creates sharp, clear, clean, defined and articulate cross-hatching simulating etching or engraving. The meticulous attention to detail is overwhelming. The precision is incredible and the realism is absorbing, outstanding, astonishing and confounding. He is a neo-realist.

Without any flight of fancy or total abandon to his imagination Andrew accurately and cannily documents for posterity nature studies of fauna and flora, landscape and vernacular architecture with a sharp eye and mind and a steady, sure hand. His art lies in the bravura and virtuosity of his graphic technique. His originality is the fantastic optical illusion obtained with his graphic rendering.

Brought up in the quaint village of Zebbug, Malta he often accompanied his father while out hunting. In open countryside Andrew came into intimate contact with nature around him and observed it closely, minutely. He transformed his insatiable love for birds into the obsession of a conservator. Life seems such an incredible paradox.

Such boundless love can hardly be repressed and his studies led him into an adventurous journey of discovery. He actually visited the house/museum where the legendary painter of birds John James Audubon lived and worked. Audubon is best known for the hand-coloured aquatint plates in ‘Birds of America' – the finest book on birds. While Audubon worked from stuffed specimen Andrew works from life, ‘in situ', through acute observation and accurate representation and illustration of creature and habitat.

Painstaking in his research, he studies flora and fauna. Naturally he also researches the food of the creatures he intends to draw. It is a comprehensive ecological study of nature with particular attention to cross-reference; a holistic approach to habitat, the correct method to read the language of organic life. He transforms optical illusion into a chunk of reality, actuality, the atmosphere of place and acquires the nature, mood and character of creature. As if studied under a lens the creature is magnified and becomes larger than life in its manifold magnificence.

Andrew Micallef was born on the 7th of February, 1969. His parents always encouraged him further. Since an early age he drew to his heart's content. He sketched not necessarily better than his classmates but incessantly, profusely and relatively faster. After attending the elementary school at Zebbug probably a quaint, provincial and pastoral idyll he applied for a graphic design course at the School of Art and Craft at Targa Gap, Mosta, a theatrical site for spectacular manifestations of sunrise and sunset, clinging to a steep ravine, a belvedere overlooking the wonderful scenario below –the fertile valley of Burmarrad. Andrew married Fiona nee Hiher in 1997 and they have two daughters Martina and Luisa.

Andrew held his first personal exhibition in St. John's Co-Cathedral Annex in December 1986. Three years later, in June 1989 he organised his second exhibit in the enchanting environment of the Museum of Natural History – Vilhena Palace, Mdina, Malta's finest architectural jewel. The subject chosen for both exhibitions was ‘Bird Studies – Malta'. These exhibitions were highly recommended and appreciated by bird lovers, the Malta Ornithological society and by the general public. Since then Andrew has been commissioned to design several sets of postage stamps depicting local flora and fauna.

The subject of his latest personal show (the Museum of Fine Arts, Valletta, in August 1999) depicted our rich and splendid architectural heritage. Without a shadow of doubt one of his most successful pieces represents the ‘Wignacourt Fountain' that stands solid in front of Sarria church in Floriana. The very stones speak. Their texture is an eloquent and dexterous language, crystal clear and simple. The entablature, cornice, coat of arms and legend are fabulously realistic and the coherent unity of the composition is impeccable. The high level of articulate design is so defined and consistently maintained in several works. These include the ‘Advanced Gate, Vittoriosa', the fountain at the Main Guard, Valletta, the ‘Banca Giuratale, Mdina' and the church façade at Pinto Wharf, Marsa. The finesse of these drawings is laudable and reminiscent of the classical rigour of a Panini or Piranese.

Andrew is also a professional chromatic accordion player. He regales lovers of music in local nightspots with entertainment. He plays with delicate elegance and charming warmth. Such love of music and harmony surfaces in the even weave of his graphics and drawing.

Andrew Micallef