An interview with the first street artist and prominent maltese contemporary artist: James Micallef Grimaud, aka Twitch. His “Giraffa” art installation has been one of the most visual impacting artworks in Malta.
James Micallef Grimaud, aka Twitch, is considered to be the first street artist on the Maltese islands. Starting from the mid-nineties, his graffiti and large scale murals are deeply interconnected with the Mediterranean culture and strongly influenced by the political and environmental transformation suffered by Malta in the last years.
He has held several solo exhibitions and participated in collective shows and street art projects both locally and internationally.
He is the founder of the Malta Street art collective, a street art collective working on several art projects around Malta.
He defines himself as an artist/anarchist.
Which kind of influence does Malta have in your way of feeling things and so in your art?
My choice of themes and the way I approach my work is greatly influenced by the contemporary events happening around me. Malta has always been in a strategic point geographically and politically and possibly now even more than ever due to the influx of migration from Africa to Europe, the international attention due to a number of scandals and other topics related to the environment. I select the ones which inspire me or frustrate me the most and try to approach them in a witty way, seeking a balance between the seriousness of their reality and the absurdity of it all.
Do you have a favourite artwork from yours?
That’s really tough because I have many favourites. Every artwork I work on follows an in-depth study and represents a certain time period. If I were to pick a few from the last few years I would probably choose Giraffa which I made at the grand harbour and was part of the Valletta 2018 major visual arts exhibition, Dal-Baħar Madwarha (The Island is What the Sea Surrounds). At 120 meters in height, it’s the largest installation ever made in Malta. The installation creates a link between the African and European continent.
The pattern I used to create the giraffe derives from the Kordofan giraffe which is one of the most endangered giraffe species due to the war-torn parts of Africa it is found in. Through the Grand harbour, the giraffe is given a place of refuge.
Another favourite is The Wheel of Fortune, a mural I was commissioned for the Capital of Culture 2018 in Leeuwarden in which I painted a mural tackling the importance of sustainability. The unborn child represents future generations. Situated on a spinning top, he or she can land anywhere so we need to take care of our earth to make sure the unborn child can grow up in a healthy environment wherever they may land.
A State of Limbo, a mixed media painting I did on canvas for my last solo exhibition at Spazju Kreattiv. The painting shows my interpretation of the strength of an African culture and its young generation trapped within the madness of war. This madness which is the result of the corruption, greed and manipulation of man. This macabre yet playful depiction creates a sense of limbo looking for a way out. This work also creates a narrative for the mass migration phenomena of African people going through the Mediterranean in search of a better future.
The installation entitled Floating Memorial which was also done for my last solo exhibition A State of Limbo at Spazju Kreattiv.
Is there any artwork or artist inspiring/hunting you?
There are many artworks, artists and people from different walks of life who have inspired me throughout my life. I can’t really place my finger on one.
What is the effect of these semi apocalyptic times over your way of regarding and doing art?
These semi apocalyptic times have definitely placed in front of me a new reality of panic and a feeling of the unknown. My surroundings have been affected by a very interesting anthropological phenomena which has inspired me to create.