TIMES OF MALTA article by Lisa Gwen - 18 th March 2010
I was first introduced to Christine X indirectly. That is, I came across one of her paintings. The work featured a Bambi-lookalike almost elevated to icon status due to the surrounding backdrop of pink and purple foliage.
The effect was pretty kitsch. But it definitely caught my attention.
Yet I also knew of Christine X (the X stands for Xuereb) as the owner of Artitude Gallery in Sliema, yet her identity remained somewhat elusive and mysterious for a while, and the "X" only aided to conjure images of Singer Sargent's femme fatale. Associations are all too often useless.
Finally, some two years ago, unless my memory fails me, I met her personally, at the late Olaug Vethal's exhibition of works titled Grazzi Malta, which she organised as a tribute to her mentor.
Visions of Madame X dissipated; Christine X is actually a down to earth person possessing the kind of artistic quirkiness needed to work in the struggling art business in Malta.
Having opened the gallery in 2004, Christine X now works as a full-time artist/gallerist. The latter, she admits, has taken years to break through including the building up of a good client list.
Christine X recounts how her gallery is undergoing a bit of a re-branding procedure. "The gallery keeps getting called Christine X's gallery and not Artitude... because of all the exhibitions I curate outside the gallery space. Besides, I am taking up the advice of a group of MA Innovation and Creativity students... (which) I totally agree with." The re-branding process will take place within the next few months.
Artitude Gallery currently represents Olaug Vethal (1946-2007), Goran Cejkov, Anna Nightingale, Jason Lu, Caroline Navarro, Keith Balzan, Christopher Saliba and Charles Bonnici.
Only a few artists are represented by Artitude on a permanent basis which is the result of the strong ties established between gallerist/artist based on trust and understanding, Christine X said.
She tells me that besides the artists represented on a permanent basis, there are those who are given space for a temporary period of time. This essentially aids the artists' exposure in terms of publicity.
Some of the artists mentioned above approached her directly while others she has personally offered representation. There is no formula in the selection process, however "I always make sure that there is a certain level of quality in the works: Being an artist myself, as well as having studied history of art at the University of Malta, I can tell the quality... it's what people like that differs since art is very subjective. I have realised, although all the artists live and work locally, many of them are foreign - this is merely coincidental... this is what worked for Artitude... we have a good working relationship with each other and this is what our clients want".
I ask her whether, as an artist, she is ever affected by bias when selecting whom or what kind of work to represent in her gallery. "That is why I try out artworks - as I don't want to be biased but to have artworks that clients and potential clients want. If (selection) were based on what I like, they (the artists presently being represented) wouldn't all be on the list. Still... I feel very comfortable with the quality!"
Christine X's name as well as Artitude's often crop up in the media, as she busies herself with several projects a year. "My freelance curating/exhibition organising work is a means of escape and also a necessity for me to be creative and gain satisfaction with what I am doing. As much as possible, I like to keep the gallery as a permanent space available for clients to have a variety of artworks to choose from.
"Once in a while, I like to hold exhibitions at Artitude... in order to have the gallery space promoted. When I'm involved in exhibitions elsewhere, I am only promoting the exhibitions and the artists concerned."
Finally I ask Christine X what she thinks of the recent government initiatives related to the arts. "Having the new cultural policy and Malta Arts Fund (MAF), has been a great success for art and artists in Malta. I can definitely benefit from such initiatives and I will definitely work at making use of these benefits whenever possible. The Malta Council for Culture and the Arts has been very busy creating such initiatives for us artists. I really do hope that one day Malta will reign as a cultural hub and that greater initiatives will be taken up within the education system" to promote arts and culture evermore.
Christine X's recent endeavours include a collective exhibition titled Deception which was on show at the Valletta Waterfront just last month. She is planning to feature works by visual artist Karl Consiglio next month (between April 8 and 15), for which she has just been awarded assistance through the MAF, a personal show as well as an exhibition of works by Olaug Vethal, all at Artitude.
With the copious projects in tow, together with the re-branding of the gallery underway, one hardly needs to wonder why it is "X" that marks the spot.
Artitude Gallery is located in TignÃ© Street, Sliema SLM 3141 (Tel. 2131 6708). Opening hours: Tuesday to Saturday between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. and between 4 and 7 p.m.