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A second chance at a first impression

Traditional Maltese motifs are transformed into modern features for the ultimate fresh look in modern homes, graphic designer Matthew Demarco tells Melanie Vella.

Growing up in Malta, graphic designer Matthew Demarco has always been intrigued by the visual elements of Maltese life. “Now, as I understand the visual language of Maltese culture, my work aims to retain the shapes, colours and details while changing the medium in which people are accustomed to seeing them. From the carved walls of an old building, to wrought iron gates of a garden or the floor tile we step over on a daily basis, these are all sources of inspiration and manipulation,” he says.

Demarco extracts intricate details of traditional Maltese architecture and rebuilds and stores them as digital information. By removing a traditional design or pattern from its usual context, changing the scale and presenting it in a modern format, Demarco is challenging people to consider common Maltese motifs from a fresh perspective.

“I began to sketch and draw designs I saw. Eventually, I incorporated these drawings into branding exercises when I started studying graphic design.

“When creating Maltese branding concepts for homes or restaurants, we drew inspiration from foreign materials which looked Maltese. Yet we never researched authentic Maltese patterns to inspire our work, as none were available.”

Demarco’s first project, which he started with fellow graphic designer Ed Dingli, is a digital database of Maltese typography and fonts called Maltatype. Their collection depicts the development of typography in Malta and was turned into an online blog, www.maltatype.com.

“Every time we saw a hand-painted sign on a dilapidated building, which would usually be associated with stodgy, abandoned shops or structures, we posted a raw image online. The concept was to take the signs out of the old building context and polish them up in a digital format,” Demarco said. In this way, the mind is no longer conditioned to see it as something old.

Architectural motifs are incorporated in contemporary branding exercises.Architectural motifs are incorporated in contemporary branding exercises.

Demarco developed another project called ‘Theseventyfour’. This is fuelled by a personal conviction to reconstruct a digital database, which captures the different patterns and details intertwined in Maltese culture and architecture. The inspiration derives from things like wrought iron gates, handmade Maltese tiles and carved stone architecture, which are visually pleasing. ‘Theseventyfour’ database, www.theseventyfour.tumblr.com, allows people to adapt these designs into different mediums.

The digital library preserves a visual appreciation for Maltese heritage that is overlooked. Traditional handmade Maltese tiles are often destroyed when old Maltese houses are demolished to make place for apartment blocks.

“Floor tiles are usually walked on and not appreciated for their fine hand-constructed details. The concept is to help people take a second look at a seemingly mundane feature, where they are not restricted to the context they are usually in,” he explained.

Demarco’s clients are using ‘Theseventyfour’ database for unique wallpaper designs in their homes to create a feature wall inside a modern furnished home. This transitional style seamlessly fuses together the essence of both the traditional and modern worlds. The sweeping curves and warm colours of the patterns blend into the sleek lines of modern furniture and white-washed walls in a tasteful, elegant modern twist.

As Demarco’s digital database of tile patterns is gaining popularity, the collection of digital prints and patterns are being used all over the home as framed prints, fabrics for cushions and covers and other soft furnishings.

“The key lies in the cultural relevance of this artwork to Maltese architecture and interiors. The patterns speak the same visual language as we do. We’ve grown up seeing these Maltese features in homes, churches and other places we would usually not notice. Rather than replicating foreign trends and applying them to a Maltese context, where they have no cultural relevance, the project translates traditional Maltese concepts into a modern forum,” he said.

The sweeping curves and warm colours of the patterns blend into the sleek lines of modern furniture and white washed walls

Demarco’s primary goal for this project was not particularly to create fabric or frames. His vision is to inspire people to appreciate the cultural relevance of this beautiful artwork and interpret it in different, non-conventional contexts. His clients are constantly coming up with their own creative twists, which continue to develop the concept further.

A trend is emerging among young Maltese, who are no longer looking outside of Malta for their inspiration and are beginning to grasp the distinctive artistic value that encompasses the Maltese Islands.

“I admire Chris Briffa Architects who are also bringing forward an appreciation for this into the interiors of homes they design. Fashion designers Charles & Ron’s new clothing collection is based on Maltese inspired prints,” he said.

While it is easy for clients to associate floor tiles within the home and be creative, Demarco’s vision goes beyond utilising the ‘Theseventyfour’ database exclusively for architecture and interior design. The prints and patterns are available for anyone to purchase and apply to many other mediums.

Stimulated by extensive travel, Demarco draws inspiration from Moroccan patterns which are used on notebook-covers and postcards. The visual aspect of these patterns can be transferred onto any print media and fabric. The next project he is looking into is using the patterns on street clothing and wearable fabrics. This concept can be reinvented from the home, to the wardrobe and beyond.

www.theseventyfour.bigcartel.com

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