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Christine X Art Gallery

Valletta (Xita tal-Ħamrija)

Valletta (Xita tal-Ħamrija)

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by James Charles Hester

  • Acrylics on canvas 
  • 122cm by 122cm stretched on a 3cm deep stretcher
  • 2023

Xita tal-ħamrija is a term used to describe a meteorological phenomenon that occurs when fine sand and dust particles from the Sahara Desert are lifted into the atmosphere and transported by prevailing winds. Some of these sands make their way to the island of Malta, typically making a mess of everyone’s windows, but also creating a dreamlike haze above the ancient cities. For a brief moment in time the sky and the land become one. 

Primarily working as an abstract artist, always with an emphasis on conveying a sense of ‘zen calm’, Hester sometimes utilises these abstract painting techniques to inform observations of real life. Such as here with this scene of Valletta, of which he says:

“I have always wanted to paint Valletta. To somehow depict it alive within deep time. Where even a hundred years might trouble it little more than a fleeting second.
 The Saharan sand phenomenon of the Xita tal-ħamrija seemed the perfect vehicle to convey this dreamlike state”.


James Charles Hester is a British born artist primarily working in paint on canvas. His obsession with texture and the harmony of colour in nature began when he took a 35mm camera to document an abandoned section of the Cliveden estate, Berkshire. Where he was soon caught by a security guard, who instead of reporting him to the police, kindly permitted another hour of exploration in that strange and silent place where nature had triumphed in claiming back what mankind had put there. 

  It is this singular event that has sustained itself in the artist’s memory as though it were the purest of chords struck. Half a lifetime on and with visits to cities such as Venice, Reykjavik and Valletta - with their myriad layers of deep history on view - this obsession with mysterious atmospheres, weathered texture and the more subtle beauty of nature has only grown further still. 

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