The Malta Independent 20 July 2019, Saturday

Beautiful? Poor? Artists give their ideas about the V18 sculptures

Rebecca Iversen Tuesday, 6 February 2018, 12:02 Last update: about 2 years ago

A set of sculptures set up at in Valletta to represent various Maltese proverbs spurred some controversy and were found vandalised just hours after being installed. The sculptures are part of the ‘Kif jghid il-Malti’ project, which translates Maltese proverbs into art.

The project celebrates the beauty and creativity of the Maltese language by adapting 13 Maltese proverbs known as qwiel in public art installations around Valletta. Among the installations are a man bent at his waist with his head inside an onion, a hand holding a bird and a pig with its tail in its mouth.


Speaking to The Malta Independent, Maltese artists expressed contrasting impressions and critique of the sculptures, some understanding the humour of the contemporary art whilst others criticising the simplicity of it. 


Kenneth Zammit Tabona

Kenneth Zammit Tabona, an eminent Maltese artist and illustrator and organiser of the Maltese Baroque festival, expressed his thoughts on the sculptures describing how such an example of contemporary art is not meant to be seen as “high art”.

“This modern art is transient, it’s fleeting and brief. Offering a story that’s why it’s called ‘Kif jghid il-Malti”.

Zammit Tabona emphasised how contemporary modern art is temporary, whilst the something like the Trition Fountain is permanent “because that’s high art, it’s simply beautiful”. 

He shared his disappointment about the vandalism that has taken place, stating that whoever destroyed or tried to vandalise these installations reveals a very poor public perception of contemporary art. “Modern art can be difficult to grasp but we have to learn not to fight it”. 

Zammit Tabona made a useful comparison with the last year’s contemporary modern art display in Venice, particularly of the enormous hand climbing up from the water onto a building. Clearly this doesn’t go with Venice’s architecture, he explained, but this is what an expression of modern art is when conveying a message. “It was only temporary so really such an example shows that this is nothing new in the realm of contemporary art”.

ZammitTabona said the statues are a good concept, being that they are localised and that anyone who was expecting high art, the installations were simply not trying to be that.

“Do people in Malta have any sense of humour? They are meant to be amusing, like the expression ‘Hanzir taqtalu denbu’. I fail to see why some people are taking it so seriously. Art can be humorous as well you know”.


Michael Fenech

Artist Michael Fenech however had a completely different interpretation altogether. “Aesthetically they are really poor in my opinion. The right materials have not been used. They’re not even suitable as temporary installations,” Fenech stated.

Fenech described the “literal translations of the sculpture as not having much artistic merit to them”.

“This really felt like an element of trying to dumb down. So many other Maltese artists could have done a better job,” he expressed.

Having been damaged so easily only after a few hours of being installed, they could not even sustain the weather, Fenech said, deeming them not adequate enough. He did however condemn the vandalism, explaining that just because you don’t like something does not mean you have the right to try and destroy it. 


Raphael Vella

Raphael Vella, an artist, curator and professor uploaded a status on Facebook stating his views on the sculptures themselves.

“Don't confuse the white bum with artistic provocation, avant-garde rebelliousness, etc. This series of sculptures needs to be seen within the context of the recent dismissal of the 'protest projections' on Castille's facade as an "abuse of democracy". For what counts as acceptable artistic expression for those in power is the planned and predictable mirroring of the known, not the disturbance of real disobedience,” the status read.

Vella was contacted by this newsroom however he did wish to comment any further on the V18 installations. 

  • don't miss