This book aims at presenting the diverse facets of Gianni Vella’s artistic personality. It presents his Church paintings which, because of their very accessibility, remain his best known, but it also presents Vella working in different conditions, when, cut loose from the understandable strictures of Church commissions, he let his guard down and manifested a more adventurous and experimental nature. More importantly, this books seeks to redress the virtual obscurity and misunderstanding that loom unjustly over his large corpus of works.
Vella was no rebel. This is most probably the only reason which, hanging like an albatross around his neck, limits and hampers a proper appreciation of his works. Many people instinctively relish artists who break the mould and repeatedly jump the gun. Like tabloid journalists, they love artists who pander to their basest emotions, artists who exhibit odd and unconventional behaviour both with their art but, more importantly, with their lifestyle – the self-styled martyrs, the misunderstood geniuses. Vella led a simple life. A father, an artist, and a teacher, he never joined any modern art groups. He only found happiness when lost in the fantastic world of saints, old traditions, and carnival. This was his revolution.
Gianni Vella chose to paint as his profession and that is what he did up to the very last days of his long life, with only a sprinkling of experiments in ceramics and clay modelling – more diversions than serious works. He remained, more or less, steadfast to the training he had received during his younger years and, all considered, his imagery kept drawing ideas from the same iconographic well. This does not necessarily make his work dated or locked in a stasis. On the contrary, this imposed creative boundary has complled him to contemplate profoundly on the content and form of his productions, bringing his craft, like icon painting, on to the threshold of spirituality.