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Xaxa Calleja and Janet Fox - Woman and her Symbols

No better place to put on an exhibition about Woman and her symbols than Gozo. A big part of Gozo’s history is about women, strong women and goddesses; heroines of legends about giantesses that built temples and temptresses that held men captive.

All these influences are present in this amazing collaborative exhibition of two very different artists, Janet Fox and Xaxa Calleja. In their opposing but equally fascinating styles they have given us a show of "all woman". Brought to life by Xaxa’s delicate black lines and smudges of white as much as by Janet’s vibrant colours and varied textures.

We are shown the beauty of youth, the signs of aging, the wisdom of age and all the symbols that have forever represented women and their purpose. There are goddesses, mothers and sirens looking at us. We can see the symbols that will be forever ours, like the pomegranate, the snake, the triple spiral , but also those that have been taken away from us like the Ichthys - the fish symbol. We learn that this symbol, later appropriated (by men?) to represent Jesus, was originally a symbol of a woman’s vagina.

Janet is a follower of the “art for art’s sake” philosophy. She paints what she sees, what is around her, and draws her inspiration from the Masters she has studied. We can see glimpses of Klimt and Picasso, wonderful nude studies that recall the drawings of Egon Schiele, and a fantastic presence of Malevich in the painting called “Lady with a Broom”. Her palette is strong, this is not about tones and hues; she knows how to communicate with everything that her paint tubes will give her. Many of her works are collages, she creates interesting textures with the use of tissue paper, newspapers and card or cardboard, overlaid with acrylics and acrylic glazes.

Janet says that "she does not aspire to any hidden agenda or message in her work" but that it is her "aim to catch the viewers' attention and that by engaging with her pictures they will in turn become more observant and appreciative of their surroundings".

Xaxa, on the other hand, tells us that for this exhibitions she was “interested in looking at the various stages of life of woman and that she does this primarily through studying the female figure”. She achieves it by using one of the most basic tools of an artist, the line. Her lines are expressive, her marks are often mere suggestions and give the impressions of delicate feminine figures. Yet, if you look closer, you can see that her lines are also bold and strong and used to convey a confidence in the posture of the subject.

There are studies in black and white where she uses acrylic ink on paper, framed in beautifully contrasting heavy wooden frames. Other times she adds layers of pale hues and produces works that remind us of her paintings of plants and flowers. Very interesting are the torsos in monochrome on white paper - just a couple of lines but with such power of expression - and her rather mysterious self-portraits.

The exhibition runs till the 28th of May at The Citadella Cultural Centre in Victoria, Gozo. Ample time to go and see this celebration of everything that is female. And treat yourself - because you are a woman and you deserve it; or, if you are a man - because you know the value of a woman and know that she deserves it.

These pieces are not only fabulous, they are also affordable, so there is no excuse not to indulge!

If this exhibition has raised your curiosity about woman’s symbols, you can start exploring here.

And you can contact both Janet and Xaxa either via Facebook or by sending an email to or

As always I suggest you click on the photos in the gallery to get the benefit of a full and detailed view.

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