Biography

Born in 1929, Malta, Gabriel Caruana has in the course of his long artistic career made a respected name for himself in the field of sculpture, painting, and ceramics. Early training in Malta was followed by travel and studies in Italy, the United Kingdom and the United States of America. Early in his artistic career, Caruana showed a marked preference for the international modern art movement. Indeed, in Malta he was one of the pioneers of modern art, expressing himself in innovative sculptures in wood, papier mâché, objets trouvés, paintings and ceramic art. Ever the innovative and prolific artist, Caruana sought to exhibit his work in Malta and beyond, during a time when it was quite a challenge to travel, connect and establish his name outside of his home country. His friendship and contacts with artists, creatives and critics including Richard England, Victor Pasmore (United Kingdom), Domenico Matteucci (Italy), Carlo Zauli (Italy), Charles Sewter (United Kingdom), Henry Caroselli (USA), Julius Schmidt (USA) earned him precious experience, introductions and artistic growth.

Gabriel Caruana has had several one-man and collective shows, and his work has found a place in many private collections around the world. His work has been exhibited in various countries including the UK, USA, Germany, Holland and Italy.  He has held solo exhibitions in Malta, England, Italy and Switzerland and has shown his work in group exhibitions in Osaka, Detroit, Munich, Tripoli, London, Israel, and Melbourne. He has participated several times in the International Competition of Contemporary Ceramic Art in Faenza, Italy and his works can be found at the International Museum of Ceramics of Faenza, at the Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester, at City of Manchester Art Gallery, and at the National Museum of Fine Arts, Malta. Caruana has a number of public art sculptures across Malta, including St Julians, Zebbug, the University of Malta Campus, Ta’ Barkat as well as in Cervara di Roma in Italy and Kaisersteinbruch, Austria.

Caruana’s career spans over 60 years of intensive artistic activity and travels. In recognition to this in 1999 the President of Malta honoured him with the presentation of the Medal for Artistic Achievement. In 2003, the then Malta Council for Culture and the Arts honoured Gabriel Caruana with the “Premju Għarfien Kulturali”. In 2014, the Malta Society for Arts awarded Gabriel Caruana the gold medal in recognition of his contribution as an artist and art educator.  Caruana has been published in several publications, including Gabriel Caruana: Ceramics (Libria, 2001), Another side of Gabriel Caruana (Bonne ten Kate, 2005), and Gabriel Caruana (Kite Group, 2015).

Throughout his artistic career Gabriel Caruana has constantly pushed for contemporary art to be accessible to the public, as attested by his participation in the Maltese Carnival Celebrations (1958 to 1988), his celebrated and well attended Ceramics Evening Classes at Tarġa Gap, his temporary art installations in public spaces, numerous public art sculptures and the setting up of MACCC at il-Mitħna ta’ Ganu/ Tal-Maħlut in Birkirkara, one of the first contemporary art centres to be opened in our Islands.

In 1990 Gabriel and Mary Rose Caruana founded the Mill Art, Culture and Crafts Centre in Birkirkara, Malta. The Mill holds a permanent exhibition of Caruana’s works and other visiting artists as well as hosting events, including exhibitions, talks, workshops, book launches, literature nights and school visits.

Timeline

2018
2018

16th July 2018, Gabriel Caruana aged 89 passed away at Mater Dei Hospital, surrounded by his wife, daughters, sons-in-law and grandchild.

2017
2017

Caruana participated in a collective exhibition ‘White Memory’ held between December 2017 and February 2018 curated by Irene Biolchini and Marinella Paderni and held at Spazju Kreattiv, Valletta

2017

Gabriel Caruana bestowed in absentia with the title of Master of Letters – Honoris Causa by the University of Malta. Architect Torpiano sponsored this honour and Architect Richard England gave the oration. The conferment ceremony was held at the University’s church, the Jesuit church in Valletta.

2015
2015

‘Gabriel Caruana’ published by Kite Group in 2015, contains a critical essay by Richard England and a biographical essay by Charlene Vella. The book contains over 60 previously unpublished works on paper, developed between 2010 and 2015 by Caruana.

2014
2014

A public sculpture garden at Verdala President’s Palace is inaugurated, including a ceramic sculpture by Caruana

2014

Gabriel Caruana is awarded the Gold Medal by the Malta Society of Arts (MSA). The award is presented by Vince Briffa, President of the MSA.

2010
2010

Caruana included in the book ‘Pioneers of Modern Art in Malta’, Volume 1 by Joseph Paul Cassar, published by PIN.

2007
2007

Gabriel Caruana is one of the artists featured in Joseph Paul Cassar’s book ‘Conversations with 12 Maltese Artists’, published in 2007 by PIN.

2005
2005

‘Another side of Gabriel – his non-ceramic work’ published by Bonne Ten Kate in 2005 with an introductory essay by Prof Peter Serracino Inglott, a critical essay by Victor P. Debattista and a commentary by Bonne Ten Kate.

2001
2001

Bank of Valletta Exhibition held between November and December 2001. Book catalogue published including an introduction by Joseph F.X. Zahra and a critical essay by Richard England, curator of the exhibition. The book published in 2001 contains 54 colour plates of Caruana’s ceramics.

2001

‘Gabriel Caruana Ceramics’ published by Libria, includes foreward by Louis Galea (Minister of Education and Culture), critical essay by Richard England, and photography by Bonne Ten Kate.

2000
2000

‘Art in Malta today’ published in 2000 on the occasion of the opening of St James Cavalier Centre for Creativity, Valletta. The book presents the 60 participating Maltese artists and their work exhibited during the exhibition, including Gabriel Caruana.

1999
1999

The President of Malta awarded Gabriel Caruana with the Midalja għall-Qadi tar-Repubblika (Medal for Service to the Republic) for his artistic achievements.

1990
1990

Caruana founded the Mill, Art, Culture and Crafts Centre (MACCC) in Birkirkara. The MACCC, an artist run art centre, is housed within an 18th century windmill. The MACCC is inaugurated by Prime Minister Eddie Fenech Adami.

1990

Gabriel Caruana retires as a ceramics instructor from Targa Gap, Mosta.

1985
1985

Caruana included in ‘Contemporary Maltese Artists’ published by North Star Publications, compiled by Adriana Stivala.

1983
1983

Raffaella, Gabriel’s second child is born on the 14th January 1983.

1981
1981

His first born, Gabriella is born on the 11th of November 1981.

1980
1980

Gabriel Caruana marries Mary Rose Buttigieg on the 6th of July 1980, in Qala, Gozo.

1976
1976

Awarded Diploma Magistero di Ceramica from the Centro Leonardo de’ Medici, Florence

1975
1975

Caruana participates in the Edinburgh Arts ’75 Pilgrimage for Artists ‘To Callanish from Hagar Qim’, organized by Richard Demarco. Caruana meets and befriends Manuel Chetcuti.

1974
1974

Caruana is elected President of the St Gabriel Band Club, Balzan and holds this position for 16 years, until 1990.

1973
1973

Critical essay by A.C. Sewter on Gabriel Caruana published in ‘Contemporary Art in Malta’, edited by Richard England, with and introduction by Prof. Peter Serracino Inglott, a Malta Arts Festival Pubication, 1973.

1972
1972

Caruana participates in the 2a Mostra Concorso del Disegno Industriale, XXVI Salone Internazionale della Ceramica, Vicenza.

1971
1971

Caruana is commissioned by the Carnival Committee to design a number of grotesque masks titled ‘Animated objects’.

1970
1970

Participates in the collective exhibition ‘Art from Malta’ at the Richard Demarco Gallery, Edinburgh, together with Emvin Cremona, Mary de Piro and Richard England. During his stay in Edinburgh meets Joseph Beuys, James Haritas and Jon Schueler. Caruana holds his first solo exhibition abroad, at Peterloo Gallery, Brown Street, Manchester.

1969
1969

Caruana holds his first solo exhibition, this is held at the Museum of Fine Arts, Valletta, Malta. Another solo exhibition is held at Mazaron Gallery, St Julian’s during the same year. Caruana develops and teaches the Foundation Course at Targa Gap, Mosta.

1968
1968

Awarded Italian Government Bursary for a two-month study visit at the Istituto Statale per la ceramica, Faenza. The Department of Education in Malta supported Caruana by granting him special leave with pay. Meets Domenico Matteucci, Carlo Zauli and Panos Tsalakos. July – Awarded Diploma d’honore at the 6th Concorso di Ceramic d’Arte, Comune di Cervia. Caruana participates in the Sacred Art Exhibition which was held at the Annex of St John’s Co-Cathedral, Valletta.

1967
1967

Participates in the XXV Concorso Internazionale della Ceramica d’Arte, Faenza. Caruana’s work exhibited at the Commonwealth Institute, London as part of an exhibition ‘Contemporary Art from Malta’. A mural by Caruana was reproduced in the July/August issue of ‘Studio International’ magazine.

1966
1966

Participates in the collective exhibition ‘Omaggio a Dante’ on the occasion of VII centenary celebrations, organised by the Circolo Dante Alighieri, Malta. Visits Detroit, Michigan USA on the suggestion of Henry Caroselli who Caruana met at the Accademia di Belle Arti Pietro Vannucci, Perugia the previous year. Caruana visits and works at the Detroit Sculpture Foundry, the Detroit School of Arts and Crafts and Cranbrook Academy of Art. At Cranbrook Academy Caruana meets Prof. Julius Schmidt who offers him a teaching post at Ohio State University, however Caruana prefers to return to Malta. During his stay in Michigan Caruana meets engineer and ceramic artist John Foster. This American visit is supported by the Malta Society of Arts. On the 16th of November 1966, Caruana is elected to form part of the Atelier 56 Council, he is appointed Honorary Treasurer. The newly elected Council is composed of Hugo Carbonaro, Tancred J. Schembri, Gabriel Caruana, Oliver Agius, and Tony Pace. Meets British Abstract Artist Victor Pasmore (1908 – 1998), who becomes a friend and mentor to Caruana. Between 1966 and 1967 commissioned by Monsieur L. Vallier, Caruana works on a number of murals for the Comino Hotel Murals.

1965
1965

Caruana is elected to the board of the Malta Society of Arts, Valletta. Between July and September he completes the ‘Pittura e Scultura’ course at the Accademia di Belle Arti Pietro Vannucci, Perugia. Caruana meets Gerardo Dottori (1884-1977), Italian Futurist painter and Enrico Caroselli of Michingan, USA. In October during a Committee meeting of the Malta Society Of Arts Caruana proposes that the MSA takes on the responsibility of coordinating Malta’s presence at the Venice Biennale. Caruana is very active in the Malta Society of Arts.

1964
1964

Caruana participates in the Carnival celebrations with ‘Homage to King Carnival’.

1963
1963

Caruana participates in the Carnival celebrations with ‘Fun Bargains’ and ‘Il-birthday tal-kunjata’.

1962
1962

He participates again in the Carnival with grotesque masks titled ‘Royal Zanies’. Caruana applies to be affiliated with the Maltese art group ‘Atelier 56’. The group discusses Caruana’s application during the General Meeting held on the 17th April 1962. Caruana is asked to submit four of his works to be assessed by Atelier 56 members, which included Antoine Camilleri, Joseph A. Caruana, Tony Pace, Frank Baldacchino and Tancred J. Schembri. On the 27th of May, Caruana was accepted to exhibit as a guest artist. Caruana’s work was exhibited in the IX Annual Art Exhibition. In July Caruana’s sculptures are exhibited at the VI Malta Trade Fair.

1961
1961

Wins first prize in the Grotesque Masks category with his ‘Incubator follies’. Caruana participates in a group exhibition at the Institute for Cultural Exchanges Valletta, Malta.

1960
1960

Assists Emvin Cremona in the XIX Centenary of St Paul’s Shipwreck by designing the lighting for Cremona’s compositions. Caruana starts working as a technician with the Art Department of St Joseph Secondary Technical School, Paola. From 1960 until 1971, Caruana is commissioned to design decorations for Palace Square, Valletta for the Carnival celebrations. Caruana wins first prize at the carnival festivities for his carnival designs titled ‘Figolli’.

1959
1959

Participates again in the Carnival Celebrations with ‘Piscatorial high jinks’. This is the last year Caruana attends the Government School of Art.

1958
1958

Caruana designs a Carnival float, titled ‘Spotty Sputniks’, for the St Gabriel Band Club, winning the first prize in the costume category. Caruana takes part in a group exhibition organized by the Malta Society of Arts. The exhibition was held at Palazzo de la Salle, Valletta.

1957
1957

During this year he is also commissioned to design the decorations of the Floriana Parade Grounds. In June Gabriel Caruana is accepted as a new member of the Malta Society of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (now MSA).

1956
1956

Caruana designs ‘Il-klassi tas-Surmast Ġaħan’ for the Carnival celebrations.

1955
1955

Caruana participates in the Carnival Celebrations with grotesque masks titled ‘Beauty Contest 1999’. During this year Caruana participates in a group exhibition held in Floriana, Malta.

1953
1953

Caruana designs his second carnival float entitled ‘Day and Night’. During the same year, the St Gabriel Band Club, Balzan participate in the Coronation Day celebrations held on the 1st of June 1953, in Valletta. Gabriel Caruana, designs a float that is included in the parade held in Valletta. Starts attending the Government School of Arts, Valletta. Caruana studies under George Borg (1906 – 1983), and Emvin Cremona (1919 – 1987), while Vincent Apap (1909-2003) was heading the School of Art. He also establishes his first Studio in Sisner’s Street, Balzan.

1952
1952

Gabriel Caruana is active in his parish church and founds the St Gabriel Band Club. He also participates for the first time in the Carnival Celebrations by designing a float for the St Gabriel Band Club, Balzan. Caruana’s design ‘Fish & Ties’ wins the first prize.

1951
1951

Caruana proposes to the Committee of the Circolo St Gabriel that a marching band is formed.

1950
1950

Caruana designs and installs illumination on the Balzan Parish Church for the feast of the Annunciation.

1945
1945

At age 16, Caruana becomes a paying member of the Circolo St Gabriele in Balzan. Caruana receives Electrician’s warrant.

1943
1943

Whilst training as an electrician, Caruana is apprenticed at the Marsa Power Plant.

1940
1940

Caruana’s mother, Beatrice, passes away whilst carrying her sixth child. Caruana’s maternal grandmother, moves with the family to take care of her grandchildren. Carmela, born to Paolo Michelizzi and Isabella Plutino, is a source of inspiration to Caruana, having introduced him to music from a very young age. Gabriel stops attending school during in view of the war. At the tender age of 11, he starts working at the Call Office. In the evenings he attends an electrician’s course.

1934
1934

Gabriel starts attending Stella Maris school, Balzan from 1934 until 1940.

1929
1929

Gabriel Caruana is born on the 7th of April at Balzan, Malta. His father, Anthony Caruana is a Sergeant with the Malta Police Force. His mother, Beatrice (nee Ebejer) Caruana is the daughter of Pio Ebejer, a renowned master mason and Carmela nee Michelizzi.

References

Gabriel Caruana biographical note

Gabriel Caruana Family Archives

Malta Society of Arts

St Gabriel’s Band Club, Balzan