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Romina Malta: “Music, type and illustration are intimately linked”
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Romina Malta: “Music, type and illustration are intimately linked”

Article by Studio Ground Floor

Romina Malta on her unconventional path to design, starting with type and why you need to start imagining your brain as a plant.

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Living and working between Buenos Aires and Uruguay, the hold South America has on Visual Artist Romina Malta – or Romi to her friends – plays a more than significant role in both her personal and professional life.

“South America is a territory that takes your soul,” Romi tells us, noting, however, the contradiction in her affection for the region. “Buenos Aires is beautiful and of course I am very connected to it,” she adds, “but it is increasingly difficult to live with political polarisation, populism, hatred and resentment.” This self-awareness and geographical buoyancy truly lay the groundwork for the unique mood found across Romi’s practice – a unique ambience present in both character and artistry. This anomalous style and unique quality, it is suggested, came from Romi’s own tenacity and ingenuity to do something creative.

Romina Malta – Explorations for Tlon (Copyright © Romina Malta & Tlon, March 2021)
Romina Malta – 3 Years of United Likes (Copyright © Romina Malta, September 2021)

“I have been in the visual arts for years,” she recalls, “and it happened unintentionally,” scraping through a high school that unfortunately didn’t offer any artistic support. “I think that not having had the resources then to study arts led me to create my own methods,” Romi explains, “to learn on my own, to understand that the story I choose to tell is beyond an institution or technique,” exploiting the creative tendencies that were always with her, but never utilised. “Of course, there are disadvantages too,” she adds, “such as lack of discipline and order, disorganisation… and so on,” caveating, however, that it seems improbable for one to be a master of all. “For now I haven't needed more than what I already have,” she explains, “my practice is very unstable and solitary,” spending a lot of her time alone in her studio. “My desk is full of mugs and glasses, papers, broken papers, pencils, books and cables,” she adds, “it’s a real mess,” moving to her bed when she’s unable to deal with the latter. “It’s the emptiest and most monochromatic place in the apartment,” Romi notes.

Romina Malta – Block Guys, for Assembly (Copyright © Romina Malta & Tlon, October 2021)
Romina Malta – Illustration for Zhao Dai Club (Copyright © Romina Malta, April 2021)
Romina Malta – Illustration for Corntuth (Copyright © Romina Malta, August 2021)

This notion of clutter somewhat resonates in the playful nature of Romi’s practice, a practice that – despite an inherent ‘messiness – is utterly meticulous in its execution. “Let's just say it's mostly playful and simple,” Romi explains, discussing the signature pattern of concepts in her practice. “You won't see too much information of any kind, you could even consider my work an unresolved work,” she recalls, rife with “sloppy strokes,” negative space and a distinct absence of colour. “I think absence defines it pretty well,” Romi adds, “I mean, you will always find something that ‘could be better’ in my pieces.”

Romina Malta – Block Guys, for Assembly (Copyright © Romina Malta & Tlon, October 2021)
Romina Malta – Outtake, NY Resolutions for SSS (Copyright © Romina Malta, December 2020)

It’s here that the musical nature of Romi’s practice becomes evident, reminiscent of the sentiment that the most important part of music is the gaps between the notes. For Romi it is this presence of absence that is key to the success of her work; whereby we’re given the space to focus on the decisive elements that make up the piece. For Romi, it’s no surprise that her work is by its very nature musical, due to the seemingly harmonious relationship between herself and music, and how this bleeds into her use of type.

Romina Malta – Outtake, NY Resolutions for SSS (Copyright © Romina Malta, December 2020)
Romina Malta – Outtake 2, L’ImportanceDuVide Vinyl Edition (Copyright © Romina Malta, November 2021)

“Music, type and illustration are intimately linked in my practice, a kind of integration, a symbiosis,” Romi tells us, “what interests me is discovering and collecting music,” she adds, recalling the emotional importance music plays, whether it be listening to her favourite music when she’s down. This sense of collection is, again, cooperative; present not only in the ephemeral aesthetic of Romi’s work, but is also something that bleeds into every aspect of her life. “A dream, a loss, a book, a person, conversations, chaos, geography,” Romi recalls, “all of these can take you to unimagined places and impact your work.” She adds, “now I imagine my brain as a little plant that every day I add a little bit of water, and a little bit more, and a little bit more, and suddenly, a miracle happens.”

Romina Malta – Outtake, L’ImportanceDuVide Vinyl Edition (Copyright © Romina Malta, November 2021)
Romina Malta – Outtake, for Gateway Gardens (Copyright © Romina Malta, October 2021)

Capturing a unique and wonderful balance of low-fi graphic expression, elegant type and characterful mark-making, there is no set structure to Romi’s process, however, the reality of making her work begins with type. “I usually start with typefaces,” Romi explains, “I don't find it hard to choose, I just keep experimenting until I find the right one,” over the years collecting – and continuing to collect – an eclectic array of typefaces. “I even have books that interest me only for the quality with which it was designed,” she recalls. “With some exceptions, in general when I’m designing the words lose their meaning and become just another image,” Romi suggests, regarding the specific letterforms and artistic expressions in their own right. In discussing how her attitude to design has altered over the years, Romi describes the change as a radical one. “There are no restrictions and no concessions,” she explains, “at the beginning one gives in, tries to reconcile and accept the conditions,” she recalls, “with time and experience you begin to build a challenging, ambitious and more creative personality layer,” taking a path of creative curiosity; wanting and searching for more.

With this in mind, discussing what lies ahead for Romi, in a fashion true to her nature, she candidly concludes, “TBH… IDK…”

Romina Malta – Flower or Star (Copyright © Romina Malta & Tlon, October 2021)
Romina Malta – Explorations for Tlon (Copyright © Romina Malta & Tlon, January 2022)
Romina Malta – Explorations for Tlon (Copyright © Romina Malta & Tlon, January 2022)