Manoel Island and Valletta: A Study in Iris

by James Charles Hester

This piece began life as an impression of the skies above Valletta as viewed from Ta’ Xbiex, but soon became a study of how to make the deeper colours within the painting radiate with equal measure by utilising Iris (conventionally referred to as violet).

It appears I am not alone in this dalliance with Iris/violet, for alongside many others, Claude Monet believed the colour was able to harness the dimensionality of shadow better than black and used it with abandon. “I have finally discovered the true colour of the atmosphere,” he once noted. “It is violet. Fresh air is violet.”

  • Acrylics on canvas
  • 122cm by 122cm stretched on a 3cm deep stretcher
  • Liquitex archive quality satin varnish
  • 2023


Born in a remote village a short walk up the hill from artist Sir Stanley Spencer’s beloved Cookham, England, modern-day painter James Charles Hester also shares a deep reverence for that particular stretch of the River Thames. Citing it to have taught him everything he knows about light, shade, and texture. The only difference being that, unlike Spencer, his decision to follow the river out to its inevitable meeting with the sea and the greater world beyond was entirely of his own choosing. As such, it is no surprise that a great many of Hester’s paintings are scenes featuring water, albeit in varying degrees of abstraction. For it is within the abstract interpretations of nature that we can see the artist is firmly in his element.

“I do not like the idea of being a one-trick pony,” he says, “and am constantly chasing an idea of variety within my work. It is my great hope that although I employ different levels of realism and abstraction, one could easily tell each piece was born of the same mind.”

Presently sharing equal parts of the year between Malta and England, the artist is focusing his attention on capturing the almost limitless sights around Valletta, Mdina, and the Three Cities. Of which he says, “I could live a thousand lifetimes and still not have painted every view of this profoundly beautiful place.” He adds, “The river might have taught me light and shade, but it is the sea in relation to these shores that has taught me to look even closer at the complexity of colours and the harmony of a composition.”


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