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Ilana Shafir has been called The Grand Dame of Contemporary Mosaics and, indeed, the only way to describe the eighty-seven year old Israeli artist and teacher is as a master of the medium. Using her signature materials of handmade ceramic, pebbles, found objects and gold smalti, Shafir weaves fantastic stories and creates fruitful universes filled with joy, exuberance and strength. Shafir’s work has won numerous international awards and the artist was recently honored with the only solo exhibition organized in conjunction with the biennale RavennaMosaico 2011. Shafir was selected by jurors Emma Biggs and Matthew Collings as one of the eight artists in MAN’s Exhibition in Print 2011. Classically trained in drawing and painting, Shafir began making mosaics in the 1960s. Here, she takes us into her studio and how she finds “constant renewal and endless inspiration” in the making of her mosaics.
Tapping into the Spiritual Potential of Each and Every Piece: My Spontaneous Mosaics
My mosaic garden is an outdoors exhibition space where plants and mosaics coexist peacefully and harmoniously together. Over the years, my mosaic garden has attracted many visitors, all of whom enjoy their tour of the garden but feel utterly baffled when they enter my studio.
My studio is habitually packed with loads of mosaic materials. The casual observer is often surprised to find my enormous collection of ceramic shards, natural stones, handmade ceramic pieces, pebbles, seashells, and broken sculptures and china of all shapes and colors. “I can’t understand how you make beautiful mosaics out of all this trash!” a dear friend once memorably exclaimed. His reaction was rather common.
Visitors are always astonished to see the enormous collection I have, and often deem it excessive. They fail to see the inherent potential in these fragments. To them, these shards look useless and unattractive, lacking any artistic or aesthetic value.
I find it difficult to explain – how I put together totally disparate pieces in a way that makes them indivisible. It does not happen instantly! To create this tight bond, I search for days and weeks but when I find the right match I feel enormous joy and happiness.
I tap in to the spiritual and aesthetic qualities inherent in each piece, I feel its energy and how it interacts with other pieces. When this new configuration transforms the parts into a whole – that is, when it becomes alive – I know I have found the right result.
I marvel at this phenomenon in which two disparate pieces attract, influence each other, and miraculously become inseparable. To me, this is magic, and I am always delightfully surprised when it happens.
This process, which I call Spontaneous Mosaic, offers me a rich and exciting artistic life. My work keeps me open-minded and engaged. It offers a sense of constant renewal and endless inspiration. I consider myself fortunate to be able to lead such an exciting and interesting creative life while approaching my 88th birthday.
Ilana Shafir, February 2012 Ashkelon, Israel
Learn more about Ilana Shafir here on MAN.