Clint Calleja: ‘My grandfather used to constantly tell me not to waste time’

Visual artist Clint Calleja tells all in our Q&A

Clint Calleja is a visual artist and art lecturer based in Malta. Although his main mediums are drawing and painting, recently Calleja started experimenting with sculpture and printmaking. Calleja’s latest artworks deal with the theme of collective and personal memory. He is inspired by the recollection of past events, and how they shape us as a person and as a society.

What’s the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning?

It depends. If it is a working day, I immediately start preparing to go to work as quickly as possible, to try and avoid rush hours. If it is a weekend morning, I start the day with an espresso.

What is the best advice you’ve ever received?

My grandfather used to constantly tell me not to waste time.

What do you never leave the house without?

A lighter.

Pick three words that describe yourself

Ambitious, determined, shy.

What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?

I believe that my greatest achievement is yet to come.

What is your guiltiest pleasure?

Spending some time in solitude, smoking a cigarette.

What is the most important lesson life has taught you?

That you need to filter what is worth worrying about, and what is not worth.

Property and cars aside what’s the most expensive thing you’ve ever bought?

I think a small CNC router cutter (piece of equipment), which I never managed to make it work properly.

What is one thing you wish you knew when you were younger?

I wished I knew that eventually everything will fall into its right place.

Who’s your inspiration?

There are many. I look up to a number of international and local artists as role models to follow. But currently, I am fascinated by the way Anselm Kiefer remains faithful to material in his art.

What has been your biggest challenge?

To find a balance between my profession, family and making art.

If you weren’t an artist/educator, what would you be doing?

If I wasn’t into art and education, probably I would be a chef or a carpenter.      

Do you believe in God?

Currently we are in a complicated relationship.

If you could have dinner with any person, dead or alive, who would it be?

My mum.

What’s your worst habit?

Again, smoking.

What are you like when you’re drunk?

It is difficult to know since I rarely drink alcohol. I asked the question to people close to me, and they said that I am quieter when I drink alcohol.

Who would you have play you in a film?

I again had to seek help from my friends for this question. They mentioned that my character is close to what Russell Crowe interprets in some of his movies.

What is the trait you most deplore in others?


What music would you have played at your funeral?

Erik Satie – Gnossienne No1.

What is your most treasured material possession?

My books.

What is your earliest memory?

One day I tried to do an exercise in which I tried to identify my earliest memory for an art project. I am quite convinced that my earliest memory is watching the Italian news next to my father, which was covering the Heysel Stadium disaster on the 29 May 1985. I can still remember the shock on my father’s face. It is probably also the first time I saw a dead person.

When did you last cry, and why?

When my son was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes.

Who would you most like to meet?

I would like to meet my mother again, even for just 10 minutes. I would like to thank her for everything she did for me.

What’s your favourite food?

Definitely pasta.

Who’s your favourite person on social media right now?

I do not follow anyone on social media.

If you could travel in time, where would you go?

I would go back to the early 90s, when everything was still so much simpler.

What book are you reading right now?

At the moment I am finding it very much difficult to find some time to read. However, since I have a long drive to work, I am listening to a lot of audiobooks. The last book was ‘Troy’ by Stephen Fry.

If you could have any superpower, what would it be?

To cure all the sick children.

What’s one thing you want to do before you die?

To keep finding balance between my career, family and art making.

What music are you listening to at the moment?

My playlist will vary a lot in a day. It depends on my mood and on what I am doing. If I am working on an art project I usually listen to electronic or classic rock music. When I need to concentrate, I listen to classical music.

In the shower or when you’re working out, what do you sing/listen to?

I usually listen to an audiobook, a podcast or the news.