Edited by Anthony Aquilina
THIS BOOK SETS OUT to record one of themajor art forms of the Maltese Islands – the painted fishing boats.
Each boat is a work of art. It would function just as well if it were painted an overall grey, but instead it displays a complex pattern of bright colours. Each boat has a unique pattern of colours and yet it remains unmistakably Maltese. Studying the complex variations of these colours reveals that each boat-owner is not only a practical fisherman but also an artist. So my book is a study of a local art form that adorns the coastline of Malta and that has done so for many years. It is also a record of the design and history of these boats.
I made this study forty years ago when I was living in Malta and was able to visit every one of the fishing villages where these boats are kept. I made a detailed, coloured field-sketch of each boat and, when I had done this for all I could find, I sat down to analyze the colour patterns and their complex variations. The result was a study in quantified aesthetics – a revealing look at the complicated way in which each boat displays the fact that it is (1) a Maltese boat (2) probably comes from a particular region of the Maltese islands and (3) belongs to one particular fisherman.
It had been my intention to repeat my study at a later date, to see how much – or how little – change there had been over the years, but my life became so busy that I never managed to do this. Perhaps the publication of this book will stimulate a Maltese scholar to undertake this project – an investigation that would tell us a great deal about the long-term persistence of local Maltese traditions.