MAN artist and winner of the 2009/10 Orsoni Prize Julie Richey has been kind enough to send us some of her thoughts about the mosaics she saw at Ravenna Mosaico last week. Something a lot of people don’t know is that Julie has a degree in art history. That, combined with her experience in making mosaics herself, gives her the ability to communicate what really makes mosaics work easily and accessibly to the rest of us. Lucky us.
Enjoy — Nancie
This seems to be an over-arching theme of my favorite mosaics at Ravenna Mosaico, the monthlong international festival of contemporary mosaic art in Ravenna, Italy.
Exhibit A: “Ricordo” by Luciana Notturni.
This horizontal diptych is sublime in so many ways: the restrained color palette; the texture, which is subtle, yet tactile; the skilled andamento which, for lack of a better term, one might call “directional chaos.” Inside that chaos, there is movement and repetition.
The closer you get, the less it makes sense to your eye. And the more it draws you in. You begin to notice the bits of marble, smalti and 24-carat gold. Luciana’s inspired use of an unexpectedly mundane subject – a field of wheat and, later, furrows left after harvest – allows the mosaic to speak for itself, rather than be subjugated to the object depicted in mosaic.
Exhibit B: “Folla” by Luca Barberini with Koko Mosaico
“Folla” is a crowd-pleaser about a crowd. Again, repetition and intricacy won me over. When I first approached this mosaic, I was drawn to the bright color palette and the use of chunky, sheared B-cut smalti, which look like richly-colored candy cubes.
Upon closer inspection, I noticed some guys. Guys frowning. Guys looking left or right. Guys squinting and smiling and pondering. One guy sporting a bright red mohawk. In a crowded opening reception, it’s sometimes a challenge to view the artwork at the proper distance. Once the crowd thinned, I took several giant steps backward, and wow. There they were. Hundreds of little spectators all crammed into a scene.
This would have been a “fun idea” mosaic, had it been small with perhaps only 25 faces. Blow it up to the wall-sized dimensions in “Folla” and it becomes an amazing achievement. The coolest part about this mosaic? Looking closely at each person’s face, you see it is made of only a few random tesserae – 5 – 7 pieces are used to create distinct characters and attitudes.
Exhibits C & D: “Trittico Icone dell’Albero Foglia” by Marco Bravura & “Blue Grids in Blue” by Toyoharu Kii.
These mosaics draw you in with their technical superiority. As your eye navigates the surface, taking in the details, repetition and variations in materials, you enter a trance-like state. Your eyes scouring the surface, you begin to take in an overwhelming amount of data about the artists’ skill.
Details from “Trittico Icone dell’Albero Foglia” by Marco Bravura (Sorry, we were unable to find a photo of the complete work at post time.)
Here, Marco Bravura has used shells and millefiori; there, slivers of white gold; he incised the surface of the marble for a subtle cross-directional texture
“Blue Grids in Blue” by Toyoharo Kii
Here Kii has meticulously embedded bits and pieces that, to other artists, would be shards swept up at the end of a productive day in the studio.
I could go on. Suffice to say that in this theme of Intricacy and Repetition, one other effect they have in common is this: they’re all so luscious, they make me say, “Mmmmmmmmmmm.”
We’ll second that emotion, Julie. Thanks so much. — Nancie