Letters from home, to home | Adrian Gauci

Graphic designer and illustrator Adrian Gauci gives us the lowdown on his contribution to the collective exhibition Divergent Thinkers 2, on display at St James Cavalier until November 10, in which he presented a typographic triptych entitled ‘Jien u d-Dar’.

Adrian Gauci.
Adrian Gauci.

"My contribution for Divergent Thinkers was a development from my dissertation, Nocturn-e. The project explored different ways one can engage in storytelling using modular typography. I set about creating 'Jien u d-Dar' to explore the relation between my dwelling and myself. I wanted to show this using my modular typography. However the theme was inspired from a smaller project I was working on where I had to create board game steps using Maltese tiles. While working on that project, I realised the potential of the Maltese tiles for creating a whole typeface.

I guess I chose typography as my medium because I am a graphic designer after all. And when I thought about Maltese tiles as a typeface, I realised I had to do it - especially now that there is a revival of 'everything Maltese'.

"The theme - the relationship between my home and myself - is a recurring thought I have, a preoccupation which questions whether I should leave my country or home. I like where I live, especially my room. It's the place I call home. I sleep there, talk, meet people, work, relax, and also hide from everything else.

"Also, my room has become my way of expressing who I am - what I hang or display on the shelves, how I tidy my room, everything. It's like when they say you can judge a person by his or her shoes; in my case I feel I do it with my room.

"I'm always asking what I should do with my work. I probably will never get an answer to that, but typography and illustration have always been on the forefront in my work. I would definitely consider working on something of the sort again, but I usually become interested by something else and hop from one thing to another haphazardly.

"Many people despise technology saying it is soulless and complicated. Well, it's here to stay so might as well use it to our advantage.

"I happen to be a bit of a geek but I like traditional media as well. The reason I like traditional media is because in certain cases it simply is better than technology. In this case for example, the ink printed on the paper by hand couldn't be produced by current technology. I choose to work by hand because it also gave a soul to the piece. Traditional Maltese tiles are usually produced by hand. I wanted the same concept applied to the process.

Jien u d-Dar by Adrian Gauci

"The problem nowadays with traditional media is that it is mostly viewed through a digital monitor. How can you appreciate the ink effect, the imperfections, the reflected light, textures, and all the rest of the piece if you are watching something on screen?

"I'm not saying that traditional media is better than digital or the other way round, but I think they both can work together. If we keep using traditional media only, no progress would be made. If one day a technological screen would be better at producing what I have done, I will use it.

"It's also worth noting that I designed firstly on paper, then digitally, and then back to paper. Technology helped me do stuff faster and cheaper.

"The process for creating a Jien u d-Dar was quite straightforward. I already had some experience of modular typography while working on my dissertation project Nocturn-e. At first the design of the typeface look simple but let me tell you, it's not as easy as tracing some tiles and moving them together.

There are certain local websites which make this look easy as pie. These were designed for actual floor-pattern-making. However I specifically needed a typeface, and the way to do is by studying attentively, and sketching and failing for a number of times until you succeed. This was done on paper and on Adobe Illustrator at the same time because yes, computers exist now and there is no rule that keeps you from using them for traditional media.

"Test pieces on the actual printing process were complicated too. Originally I planned to work with linoleum, but with the amount of detail I needed they would have never worked. Commercial rubber stamps were the best solution for my situation, however, be warned: although they look tiny and made of rubber, they are expensive. I needed 20 different designs, 2 by 2 cm each. If I made a mistake on the design, it would be impractical to reproduce them. I couldn't afford making mistakes; that is why working everything out on a computer helped.

"The planning involved was big. The paper was scored line by line, forming a grid. This helped me place everything in the designated place. The guidelines also are reminiscent of the tile grooves, making the piece more faithful to traditional Maltese tiles.

"Handles for stamps had to be custom designed and perfectly aligned to the rubber part. If you are familiar to the old art typesetting, the process works similarly. I would have been easier to just print the pieces digitally, but as I said earlier, the effect wouldn't be as good."