To me, this monument synthesises Casha’s lifelong work, that is, figurative, true to life sculpture, merging with non figurative, abstract, even surrealistic forms in perfect harmony.
Casha has said that, apart from familiar images, he was also keen on creating forms that exist only in his imagination: to merge the two, forms and images, was his greatest ambition.
Though Casha has produced sculptures in wood, marble, stone, and other materials, it is the medium of terracotta that gives him full scope to merge form and image. In his hands, the clay twists and curls, it is stretched to thin pointed pinnacles or flattened to curious shapes, until it reaches that perfect form which satisfies him.
The result is never like anything you have seen before, though British and Italian influences keep suggesting themselves. I have never watched Casha work but it seems to me that many of these shapes grew out of the process of making, rather than being executions of shapes that had been visualised by the artist before starting to work on them.
The finished object looks spontaneous but, on closer examination, the thinking, contemplation, redefinition and changing of moods that went into its making become evident.
At an early age, Casha studied art at the Malta School of Art under George Borg and Samuel Bugeja. He continued his studies at the Accademia di Belle Arti in Rome, and at the Brighton College of Art and Craft in the UK.
These years enabled the young artist to undergo thediscipline of the Accademia, to work in clay and ceramics, wood carving, pottery and print making.
He earned praise from teachers and art critics who were impressed by the young artist’s ability and promise. The Sculpture International, in 1967, described Casha as ‘a leading Maltese artist with a marked individuality, the result of a combination of Latin and British influence after studying in Italy and Britain’.
As a mature artist in the last quarter of the twentieth century, form becomes the main concern. The sculptures of this period become highly convoluted and the artist seeks to create space within the sculptures themselves.
They are mainly in clay, though the artist always insisted on calling them sculptures and not ceramics. It is in these abstract forms that the British influence is most evident.
These years also produced a number of larger works, in which a figurative item is placed inside an abstract form: Pieta (1981), St. John of the Cross (1982), Madonna and Child (1996), The Pope’s Monument (1991), Tabernacle (2002).
The BOV Retrospective Exhibition of 2005 was dedicated to the works of Joseph Casha. It was curated by Louis P. Saliba, who produced a comprehensive catalogue tracing his career in detail. He later also produced a definitive biography of the artist, called Joseph Casha – Fantasy and Reality, in which he leaves us with a picture of:
"A man you can trust, generous to a fault, neat and ordered, an organiser, an artist, a sculptor faithful to his ideal, whose aim was to produce paintings and sculptures that do not only please the eye and adorn the surroundings but are also a source of spiritual peace and relaxation".
Joseph Casha's career was brought to an early end by his rather sudden death on 24th June 2011.
His legacy lives on.