Operating under the artistic alias Add Fuel, Portuguese graphic designer and street artist Diogo Machado has been painting realistic-looking tile patterns across Portugal's streets. The recreations are so faithful to traditional designs, they often trick the eyes of passersby.
Machado's mind-bending Street Ceramics series is focused on reimagining azulejos, the blue and white-painted, tin-glazed tiles traditional to Portuguese architectural decoration. Dating back to 13th century Spain, azulejos appeared over the centuries on nearly every Portuguese building from churches to schools, and palaces to ordinary homes. Elaborately painted with intricate detail, azulejos evolved to include figurative designs depicting notable events in Portuguese history. But eventually, the popularity of the tiles declined in the mid-twentieth century.
Adopting the visual style of traditional azulejos, Machado incorporates elements of our modern era. His work contains eerie, surrealist cartoon elements like unblinking eyes, hockey sticks, chipmunks, and smiling clowns.
Machado will design an installation in his studio and make a series of stencils for each layer of the artwork. On-site, he'll painstakingly apply each color until the final pattern is complete, often completing it with spray paint. Taking the interplay of art and illusion one step further, Machado has also created custom ceramic tiles of his designs, which he surreptitiously installs in public spaces.