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Emma Biggs & Matthew Collings’ MAN Exhibition in Print 2011

On 17, May 2011 | 3 Comments | In Uncategorized | By man-admin

What would a revered gallerist, a mosaic legend, and a famous art critic look for in judging mosaic art?  This is a question we sought to answer with the Exhibition in Print 2011 sponsored by LATICRETE.

To that end, MAN 2011 readers now have the opportunity to see which judges selected which artists and why.  The selections were made entirely independent of one another – Bernice Steinbaum of the Bernice Steinbaum Gallery created one section of the Exhibition and the team of Emma Biggs and Matthew Collings another – and the jurors wrote specifically about the artists they selected.

We also broke the mold by asking our jurors to select artists based upon three submitted works accompanied by indepth artist statements and work descriptions – all of which are found in the magazine.

The result?  The Exhibition in Print 2011 is more than a tasty smorgasbord of single mosaic images, it is carefully curated, thoroughly satisfying eight-course mosaic meal.

Last week on the MAN blog, we took a quick look at the selections of Bernice Steinbaum, PhD of the Bernice Steinbaum Gallery in Miami, FL.   Today, we’ll look at the picks of Emma Biggs and Matthew Collings.

Emma Biggs and Matthew Collings

For the past 20+ years, Emma Biggs has consistently blazed new trails into and opened thinking about the possibilities of contemporary mosaic as fine art. 

In 1987, she established the Mosaic Workshop in London taking on public and private commissions with enormous success.  While honoring the age-old traditions, Biggs began to use the medium in a uniquely modernist way – exploring the concepts of andamento, pattern and color in the creation of complex, visually stunning work filled with carefully selected imagery.

New Jersey Kitchen Panel  Vitreous glass

In the succeeding years, while continuing to push mosaic’s artistic boundaries, Biggs also become one of the art form’s most sought-after teachers – she is Senior Tutor in Mosaic at West Dean college and conducts additional workshops around the world.  Her books, including the best-selling Encyclopedia of Mosaic Techniques are considered “must haves” in mosaic libraries.

In 2009, Biggs collaborated with her husband, Matthew Collings, in the creation of a ground-breaking installation – Five Sisters, at York St Mary’s, York.

Both mosaic and painting were inspired by the famous Five Sisters grisaille window in the cathedral.   The painting’s monochromatic diamonds and the mosaic’s roundels (composed of 13th and 14th century pottery sherds) beautifully echo the basic design elements in the window.  However, the Five Sisters installation was much more than an homage to the setting.

“What we’re trying to do with Five Sisters is expose the link between history, beauty and work — making an enormous recycling project not just literally with broken or fragmented forms, but exposing the historical fragments of ideas that underlie the way all of us see, and think.”

Matthew Collings is a well-known artist, writer and critic who is valued for his candor and “sneakily intelligent style” in talking about all art, both historic and contemporary.  One could say he is the UK’s Jerry Saltz, challenging accepted art world norms in a way that is both smart and approachable for the uninitiated.  His film “What is Beauty?” aired on the BBC2 in November 2009.  He is currently working on a major series about the Renaissance also for BBC2.  Collings has written numerous articles and several books including “This is Modern Art” and “This is Civilization.”  We highly recommend his Facebook page.

Here, then, are the Exhibition in Print 2011 selections of Biggs & Collings. 

Please bear in mind that this is but a representative portion of the Exhibition in Print as it appears in MAN 2011.  We readily admit that much of the exciting dynamics of the Exhibit – most notably context as it relates to both the Exhibition as a whole and the intent of individual artists – is lost within this limited space.  In the magazine, four pages are devoted to three works by each artist and are accompanied by in-depth Artist Statements and Descriptions of each work. 

We highly recommend that you click on the images for larger and more detailed views.   All photographs are by the artist unless otherwise noted.

Excerpt from Biggs & Collings Jurors’ Statement:

Effective image making is an enquiry, often experimental.  It could result in a humorous or ironic proposal.  It could be deeply serious.  It is possible to combine humour and serious intent.  For MAN’s Exhibition in Print, Matthew and I selected work we felt was genuinely exploratory, in which the outcome of the experiment was unknown to the maker when he or she began.  We think our selection combines playfulness with observation and expertise, which is not to say it is constrained by technique.  in fact, it is the careful balance of the free and the unfree that makes these works so enjoyable.

Biggs & Collings Best In Show Artist:  Jo Braun, USA

 Mosaic Without Any Tesserae  56 x 39 x 1 in.
Remnant thin set and cement pigment on hand-formed cement panel.
Mosaic Without Any Tesserae  Detail
Biggs & Collings:  “Jo’s work is experimental, coherent, enquiring and technically adept.  She combines a humorous enquiring skepticism with a sincere interest in the nature of materials.”
Braun:  “Debates about the definition of “mosaic” typically revolve around the types of tesserae used.  Person A thinks the sharpened ends of colored pencils qualify; Person B thinks they don’t.  In Mosaic Without Any Tesserae, I decided to explore what would happen if that point of contention were removed from a work altogether.”
Note:  Ms. Braun was selected for the EIP 2011 by both Bernice Steinbaum and Biggs & Collings.
CaCO3, Italy
Movimento n. 7  Two panels 40 x 50 cm
Gold leaf tesserae and black mortar.
Movimento n. 7 Detail
Biggs & Collings:  “In their statement, this artists collective makes clear why and how they have arrived at an interest in issues of form.  We would be interested to see them build on some of the issues their work seems to raise – those of the history of the medium and material resources.”
CaCO3:  “The space (created by the mosaic) has so many systems to be read, it appears that the mosaic suggests changes of view for its contemplation, that it is a living mechanism prompting interaction between itself and the observer.”
Cynthia Fisher, USA

To Everything There Is A Season  25 x 33 in

Vitreous glass, unglazed ceramic, stained glass, broken pottery, rocks, smalti, mirror, grout as element
To Everything There Is A Season  Detail
Biggs & Collings:  “Cynthia’s work is full of potential . . . There is something particularly interesting in seeing her achieve pictorial depth and complexity without using traditionally sumptuous materials.”
Fisher:  “For this work, the goals were; to lay the tesserae horizontally while directing the eye vertically through color and value choices; to depict the chaotic color of fall without the use of realistic elements; and to use larger stained glass shapes, integrating them seamlessly with the smaller bits.”
Mona Magdi Kenawy,  Egypt
Memories  35 x 50 cm
Volcanic stones, mother of pearl, colored plaster.
Memories Detail
Biggs & Collings:  “She seems interested in the nature of materials – issues of colour, tone, surface and reflectivity.  It is pleasing to find an artist capable of addressing this area with confidence and clarity.”
Kenawy:  “The abstract design creates simplicity and a sense of unity between contrasts.  Although Memories was executed in a small size, its effect has been remarkable for many viewers.”

Note:  Ms Kanawy was selected for the EIP 2011 by both Ms. Steinbaum and Biggs & Collings.

Ilana Shafir, Israel

Hanging Gardens  24.8 x 47.24 x 2 in.
Hand-made ceramic pieces, ceramic gragments pottery shards, natural and cut stones, pebbles and shells.
Photography by Giora Shafir
Hanging Gardens  Detail
Biggs & Collings:  “The work of Ilana Shafir is ambitious, carefree, and confident.  It is not slavishly technical, but neither is it sloppy.  She seems interested in technique to just the right degree.”
Shafir:  “When I began working on this mosaic, I created an island of flowers but, for some reason, I placed this island in the middle of the board.  Its central location provided for a hanging effect, thus inspiring the idea for the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.

Note:  The Exhibition in Print was a huge labor of love for Bill Buckingham, Michael Welch, and myself.  We are, quite frankly, damned proud of it.  It has always been the purpose of MAN to promote the art form as one equal to the other media referred to as “fine art.”  With the 36 pages devoted to the Exhibition in Print and additional stories about artists working at the top of their field, we think the 2011 edition of the magazine is a strong embassador for the emerging brilliance of the contemporary mosaic scene.

To order your copy of Mosaic Art NOW 2011, click here.

Enjoy –  Nancie

Emma Biggs
Matthew Collings or Matthew Collings on Facebook
Jo Braun
Cynthia Fisher
Mona Magdi Kenawy
Ilana Shafir

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  1. George

    Justifiably proud you are! Cynthia's work has become so subtle and daring over the past few years as she has experimented outside the clearly representational (which she also does very well).

  2. Nancie Mills Pipgras

    Why thank you, Maureen. Coming from you, that's quite a compliment. Best.

  3. Maureen

    Excellent post!

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