“We do not invent our mission in life, we detect it” — Hyrum W. Smith*
This quote is featured on every page of John Botica’s Power of Pebbles
website. The New Zealand based artist firmly believes that making pebble mosaics is his destiny – and he pursues it with a passion, power and joy that is evident in every one of his works.
John Botica: “You know when people say you have to find your passion in life to enjoy life – to find it meaningful? Well, I’ve found it – and I am lucky. I’ve always loved beautiful things and now I’m able to do beautiful things. I’ve detected my mission in life. Pebble mosaics are my sculptures in the ground. My art is a burning fire in my heart.”
The artist’s pallette
Fellow New Zealander and mosaic artist Con Kiernan
brought Botica’s work to our attention last fall. We had noticed Botica’s work before and asked Kiernan he would interview Botica and provide us with photos. This Kiernan did with enthusiasm and a deep appreciation for his fellow artist.
We’ll be devoting two posts to Botica this week. First, we’ll focus on Botica’s incredible gift for design and pursuit of perfection. In the second post, we’ll talk about how he creates these durable, permanent works of art – trust us, the images in the second post will be no less spectacular than what you see here.
Tane Mahuta and Kereru, 2009 3 meters diameter
Wilson School, Takapuna, Aukland
Botica’s genius as a designer of pebble mosaics is stunningly evident in the mosaic shown above, Tane Mahuta, a commission for a school for the disabled based upon Maori mythology.
Tane Mahuta, the tree in the center of the medallion, is the the most famous tree in New Zealand; a giant Kauri said to be between 1,250 and 2,500 years old. For the Maori, Tane Mahuta is the lord of the forest and gives life to all the birds and insects.
Later, he becomes the Sun God, indicated by the golden orb in the center and the lines radiating from it to the outer edges of the medallion.
Tane Mahuta’s friend is Kereru – Maori for wood pigeon, the two beautiful birds at the bottom of the medallion.
Getting shapes of native images to their most reduced state as John does is, in itself, a significant skill. John’s sense of the mysticism surrounding these images helps him get to the very essence or heart of things. He’s not just dealing with smart looking objects. He’s showing the World of Nature as the human mind and heart have interpreted it. This has to be done with honesty and a willingness to let the real thing enter the artist’s soul. John gives it all he’s got.
We couldn’t agree more. That a Caucasian male could embrace the Maori and Polynesian lore and mythology so authentically is a wonder. Indeed, the core of his work has been public commissions centered around these themes. What we see is that Botica connects personally with the intent of each commission. The result is art work that is universally charismatic.
Frangipani, Detail. 2.4 meters diameter
Let’s go to our second example of Botica’s remarkable design capabilities, Koru Land.
Koru Land, 2010 2.4 meters in diameter
This precast pebble mosaic links one of the Maori’s most spiritual icons, the koru, with Polyenesia’s beloved flower, the frangipani. Used in carvings, sculptures, jewelry and tattoos for centuries, the koru mimics the shape of an opening fern frond and suggests new life, peace, tranquility, personal growth, positive change and harmony. The frangipani is referenced by the petal shapes that encompass korus.
A fitting symbol for a multi-cultural arts center, no?
Look at how perfectly each one of these pebbles has been placed to create flow or andamento. (click to enlarge) So tightly and regularly are these stones laid that they resemble the fine, intricate needlework used to embroider the robes of ancient Chinese emperors.
And yet, the whole is simplicity itself – breathtaking in its elegant symmetry.
Maori blessing the installation of Koru LandSeptember 3, 2010.
An earlier work commissioned by the Auckland City Council is installed in a large public park. Again, there is a multicultural theme combining images important to both Maoris and Polynesians.
Across the Cultures, 2007 3 meters diameter
Ponsonby’s Western Park
Here, the iconic motifs embellish a mosaic “bowl” with a brass drainage cover in the center that echos Botica’s design.
The photo below, taken while the mosaic was under construction, shows how the play of light on the on-edge pebbles creates an ever changing image throughout the day.
Palms, korus and frangipani flow with elegance and power – what we see as the hallmarks of Botica’s work.
Given the mastery of Botica’s pebble mosaics, it is very hard to believe that he has only been making them since 2004. In our next post, we’ll learn more about how he came to the art form, see what it takes to make these large-scale installations, and view more examples of Botica’s passion at work.
Enjoy – Nancie