His idols are Henry Moore, Fernando Botero and Auguste Rodin. Joe Xuereb was 19 years old when he created his first limestone sculpture. At this time, in 1973, Gozo was a less developed island in the Mediterranean. The time passed there much slower than on the big sister island of Malta.
I met him in his studio in the small village of Ghajnsielem on Gozo.
Everything started with Mary Claridge from the UK. The lady opened a crafts center on the island at the end of the 1960s. „My sister was sewing clothes for her. Therefore I came as a delivery boy to her house“, says Joe, who was born in 1954. „I saw her working with stones.“ It was the first time he touched them. Her stones. „My father was a stone dresser but I have never been interested in that material“, he admits today. He saw the encounter with Mary as a challenge. A real challenge! „I wanted to prove myself.“ He created a coffee table out of 2 stones with an elaborate design on top.
Mary also encouraged the locals to make in art. „And she sold my table within 3 weeks.“ She told me not to work with ornamental designs but rather with smaller ones.
More and more he got inspired by the prehistorical sites of his homeland. He created fertility goddesses and repeated the process again and again. The stylized female figure has acquired symbolic stature as an expression of fertility and sexual power in an equal measure. Today he is proud of starting as an autodidact.
Female forms and women figures belong to his main work. „I go in my studio when I feel I have to. I am working every day, even on Sundays, most of the times for more than 4 hours“, he states. And he is a real local from Gozo. „We always had a different mentality than the people from neighbouring Malta. We use simple tools until today, we always had to think how to survive.“
A French Magazine referred to him one time as the „Botero of Gozo“. I mention this and he is a bit proud. Of course, he can be proud of this comparison. His works are found in private collections all over Europe, in the US and Australia. His art is also represented in various exhibitons all over the globe.
Photos: Enric Boixadós