The Maltese islands have drawn many foreign artists over the centuries and still capture the imagination of many. Some visit briefly, others are spending longer periods of time here during artist-in-residence programmes, while a growing number are moving to Malta and Gozo for good.
One of these is Italian freelance illustrator Magda Azab, who decided to set up shop here four years ago. Her colourful and bright artworks, made of graphic elements, geometrical shapes and textures and replete with visual metaphors, are instantly recognisable.
She works with a wide range of projects, from editorial illustrations to branding and clothing patterns. Her clients include Mondadori, The Daily Telegraph, La Stampa and Endless Vacation Magazine.
Ms Azab has slowly but surely made a name for herself even locally and her most recent collection reflects her love for the island.
“Malta is completely different from my hometown,” says Ms Azab, who is of Egyptian origin but grew up in a small town near Milan, Italy.
“I love everything authentic, simple and characteristic. There’s something here that sends me back in time. I love how traditions and modernity coexist,” she notes.
Titled Ciao Għalikom, the series depicts elements, moments and details which characterise Malta and which make daily life on the island “so special” for the artist. These factors include anything from folklore and traditions to the island’s flora and fauna, shops and architecture, to the different seasons.
There’s something here that sends me back in time. I love how traditions and modernity coexist
“Every artwork is related to my experience of these islands, simple moments or elements I adore,” she points out.
Spring and summer are her favourite seasons and they feature prominently in the series, especially summer, the festa season. Among other illustrations in her collection, one finds band clubs playing, fireworks and feast decorations.
She admits that some village decorations never cease to amaze her.
“I’m always impressed by the extreme care with which some decorations are made, for example, how wooden band stands look exactly like marble,” Ms Azab says.
She is also amused by how locals communicate with their neighbours or passers-by from their window and she likes how they decorate these apertures on different annual festivities.
People are a huge source of inspiration for her and this collection features quite a few, such as a quirky bigilla vendor.
Ms Azab started working on Ciao Għalikom a year ago, when she was approached by the people behind Solo Vinyl & Books in Msida to host a solo exhibition.
“Regarding the theme, I had no doubt about it. I wanted to dedicate a series of works to what I have been calling my second home for ages now, so I thought this was the perfect opportunity,” she enthuses.
Asked about the project’s title, the artist says that it was one of the first phrases she heard and recognised soon after landing in Malta.
“I was excited and amused to hear two familiar words. That was one of the first little things and moments that made me happy and I wanted to celebrate it,” she says.
“‘Ciao’ derives from Italian and ‘għalikom’ from Arabic… they perfectly combine my origins. It seemed to me the perfect expression to symbolise my link and view of the islands.”
Ms Azab’s collection is on display at Solo Vinyl & Books at 92, Bordin Street, Msida, until December 23. All artworks are on sale in three different formats, as an A3 poster, A6 postcards or as part of a 2020 wall calendar. For more information about the artist, visit http://magdaazab.it/.