Graffiti and wall art being condoned in Malta? Read on…
Some flyovers and underpasses have always had the odd mural or daub of words, and the fading signs of political propaganda from years ago. But compare Malta to Italy, for example, and you’ll see that wall art, murals or even graffiti are just not that visible. We’ve a few budding Banksys (see the Tal-Qroqq roudabout area for one work of art), but until now, there’s been no effort at celebrating the work of the spray-can artists, let alone actively promoting it.
What we do have in our heavily urban islands are boring walls, whether the grey of precast concrete or the boring beige of bland new stone. The initiative – Putting colour into our Streets – sees a gallery owner, a pro wall art creative and the authorities comes together to change all that, and probably for good.
Gallery owner Christine Xuereb (known as Christine X) and wall artist James Micallef Grimaud were spirited and pioneering enough to see the gap in Malta’s art appreciation and go for it. Two local councils – San Gwann and Sliema – are in on the initiative, helping grant wall space. Other councils seem to be hard on their heels. The Malta Arts Fund and some local firms are sponsoring it. Now, a thriving Facebook group is helping suggest walls in need of make over all across the islands. At first, the two behind the initiative thought of putting up wall-size canvases to remove later and display indoors; ironically, the authorities themselves suggested making the art permanent outside! The project runs till end September, but we feel it’s only the start of the colours of Malta to come.
A photo blog called Malta Street Art has sprung up, so the movement grows! Here though, with more on the initiative, are Christine and James:
Q. Where did the brainwave for the Putting Colour into the Streets initiative come from?
James Micallef Grimaud: The idea of painting murals is something which I introduced to Christine who helped me build the concept towards a gallery-oriented environment and also touch onto the admin aspects of applying for the project and finding sponsors. We therefore merged my DIY painting attitude with her curating skills to create a tangible project which would benefit the youth and society as a whole and at the same time allowing us artists to be free to express ourselves as a collaborative bunch.
Q. Why Malta and why now?
CX: For James , I think it has always been his passion (James is a graffiti artist of 15 years). He and his friends have been playing the largest part in graffitti and street art in Malta. His friends, who are foreign, have also made Malta their home for street art – I guess it’s the amount of empty wall space! I think there was a great need for it (judging from the huge support we got from the Facebook page ‘ Putting colour into the streets‘) I think Maltese are generally fed up of the dark environment and would like to see art in spaces that matter.
Q. Street wall art and graffiti: what’s the difference?
CX: I think the difference is that ‘ graffiti’ is all about word art but street wall art is all about painting a piece within the context of its environment. I believe the greatest challenge we face is getting the Maltese population to recognise ‘street art’ as an art of great reputation and not merely a form of rebellion.
Q. As a gallery owner, someone who’s in the business of shifting canvases not seeing them on walls for ‘free’ public viewing, what value (in all senses of the word) do you give wall art?
CX: I highly value ‘ wall art’. Canvas and paper is quite limited in its space while walls have a larger space with a challenge of applying a work of art that would fit well within its context. The only thing is that I can’t sell it! In the beginning, in order to get people to recognise wall art as other than ‘rebellion’ art, I thought that the project should be about painting on canvases stretched on walls and then removed and exhibited in the gallery ‘Christine X Art ( Artitude) gallery’. However, the Malta Council for Culture and the Arts, and the Malta Arts Fund committee have asked James, the project artistic director, to give more emphasis to paint on the walls directly. So far, from feedback we got from the San Gwann local council in particular, they seemed very keen on the project.
Q. Where next with Malta’s wall art scene once the initiative is over? Do you see it spawning a generation of Banksy mimmicks?
CX: I don’t think it will stop here. From the Facebook group, we got asked from prospective artists what they would need to do to paint on particular walls. Bansky is indeed a huge inspiration to many and perhaps, in the future, wall art will be more respected locally, thanks to him and many others.
Q. What do you need us to do to support ‘Putting colour into the Streets’?
CX: First, let me say that there are going to be some walls reserved for the public to participate. We hope that young people can get involved during the rest of the summer. We also need the help of anyone who is willing to sponsor in the project. Here, I would like to thank the main sponsors ‘ The Malta Arts Fund’, and other sponsors like Montana Colours (professional wall art sprays) , Bank of Valletta and J.Bugeja plastering works. We give special thanks to the San Gwann and Sliema Local Council for their ongoing cooperation.
Willing participants as well as sponsors, please contact Christine Xuereb at email@example.com or 21316708 or 9984 4653.