Skip to main content



James Vella Clark was born in Malta in 1975. Today, his name is synonymous with landscape depictions of his island surroundings.

Inspired by the likes of Esprit Barthet, Pawl Carbonaro and Paul Klee (including the latter’s passion for music, which Vella Clark also uses to curate a creative mood, as music is an overarching element of his output), Vella Clark has sought to embrace a certain legacy, while still carving his own aesthetic path. Tradition is but a starting point and intimate originality is the journey.

As a subject, landscape, under Vella Clark’s brush, has diverged (one could almost say divided) into two categories: representative scenes and purely abstracted scenes. These sub-corpora, despite co-existing simultaneously, are the result of an evolution, as the artist himself describes, ‘my abstract works evolved from my pushing the compositional boundaries in my landscapes. It was a gradual process that happened across a number of years. And perhaps this is why I look at my art as my personal journey’. Landscape is about storytelling, and style is a language, a means of narration.

Two main reoccurring motifs bridge these two aesthetics: the church (as an urban architectural feature) and the tree. The church is a main character in Vella Clark’s stories, as it is in his own life. Such edifices always overlook his every move, always shape his horizon, always cut his skyline. More than visual, the church is also a symbol of the moral power and dominance that the beliefs associated with the building still hold in his everyday life.

The other staple in his work is the tree. Here again the motif is marked by evolution. First, the cypress tree held core symbolic importance. Present in cemeteries, the tree was used as a metaphor for death and mortality, themes that permeate Vella Clark’s work and life. A change in the latter engendered evolution in the former. His approach to landscape and colour palette transformed, becoming brighter and more vibrant and uplifting. In these new painted spaces, the cypress tree was replaced by the palm tree, which is resilient in the harshest of conditions. Vella Clark uses it as a metaphor for the human spirit within us that seeks survival in the harshest of life’s situations. This personification has grown to the point that trees are often inserted in the place of individuals in the artist’s life. Characters in themselves, acting in a painted story.

Explore the collection

by Geographical provenance

by Artist