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27

Jun
2012

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Why Mosaic?

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Tiny Tragedies: Marcelo De Melo

For those who would relegate contemporary mosaics to the “decorative arts” section of the library, museum or art appreciation course, we would submit the work of Marcelo de Melo.  There is nothing pretty or decorative about it.  On the contrary.  It is often crude, awkward and somewhat difficult to look at.  It is also edgy, thought provoking and very clear in its intent.  Marcelo de Melo has a voice and he’s not afraid to use it.  Enjoy – Nancie

As an artist with an academic background in the study of history, the ancient technique of mosaic has a natural appeal to me. It is an art form with great expressive potential that has yet to be given serious consideration in the contemporary art world.

Much of the mosaic work being done today is in the abstract and focuses on the materiality of the technique – color, materials, textures, andamento, etc. I have chosen to use these elements to comment on highly controversial issues such as war and terrorism – themes more commonly associated with contemporary art practice.

In this sense, my work is always prompting an inquiry about the position of mosaics in relation to the contemporary art scene. It is an approach to mosaic practice that stimulates the viewer to have ideas that go beyond the physical characteristics of the work.  In this article, I would like to explore some of my works and give readers – both mosaic enthusiasts and the wider art audience – the opportunity to see these concepts at work within appropriate contextualizations.

Marcelo de Melo "2001" 2001 12.2 x 3.5 x 2.4 in. Porcelain bone china, plastic, plaster, cement adhesive, grout

2001 inspired by the classic Stanley Kubrick film of the same name is one of my earliest works. Here, I deal with themes of human power, technology and ephemerality. My use of “bone china” – a material containing small amounts of crushed animal bone – to create a fragmented femur reveals a subtle game that very much interests me: The juxtaposition of materiality with linguistics.

"Hereditary Rose" 2003 17.7 x 9.1 x 9.4 in. Porcelain bone china, vitreous glass, surgical mask, screws, polystyrene, paper, natural red rose, cement adhesive, grout.

Like 2001, Hereditary Rose (2003) is made of bone china. The consequences of war and survival are the main themes of this work. More specifically, the effects of the atomic bomb dropped in Hiroshima at the end of WWII. It was inspired by a Brazilian song called Rosa de Hiroshima by Ney Matogrosso.

Hereditary Rose was selected for the 142nd Annual Exhibition of the Royal Glasgow Institute of Fine Arts, Scotland, in 2003 where it quickly gained notoriety. In 2004, it was exhibited at the MotoAzabu Gallery in Tokyo in conjunction with the Amnesty International Exhibition. It was photographed in the Peace Park in Hiroshima that same year.

"American Gifts: Missile" 2003 24.4 x 5.9 x 5.9 in Ceramic, porcelain, plaster, wire, cement adhesive, grout.

American Gifts is a series of small scale works inspired by a visit to Vietnam in 2002 and protests against the invasion of Iraq in 2003. This series deals with the immediacy of ideas, concepts and prejudices and at the same time contrasts the naïve with the conceptual, destruction with creation. Here I have used the picassiette technique, making use of found ceramics. This technique is usually deployed in a random manner, but here I have used it to give emphasis to concepts, to trigger further visual associations. Vitreous glass or smalti would have been inappropriate as their imprint of energy is different than those of recycled ceramics. I believe that each material has a unique inherent truth that I like to explore.

Many of my works can also be ‘read’ in literal terms. Words found by chance in certain types of crockery are carefully selected to inform the viewer and suggest the meaning of the piece. For instance the word ‘war’ cut from ‘ware’, encountered in a ceramics merchants seal.

 

"More American Gifts: Grenades" 2005 5.5 x 3.9 x 3.5 in Ceramic, porcelain, plaster, wire, metal, cement adhesive, grout.

From this series, Grenades (2005) was exhibited at the second edition of Rio Mosaico in 2009 which was presented at the Forte de Copacabana, a defunct military compound in Rio de Janeiro.

"American Gifts: Bombs and Grenade" 2003 9.1 x 3.9 x 4.3, 4.3 x 2.8 x 2.8, 8.3 x 3.9 x 3.9 x 3.9 in. Ceramic porcelain, plaster, wire, cement adhesive, grout.

"Bomb" detail

 

Detail

"Concrete Evidence" 2004 25.6 x 5.9 x 5.9 in each. Cast concrete

The work titled Concrete Evidence is directly inspired by the American Gifts series. Made from concrete cast in a mold from a 2003 missile, Concrete Evidence once more shows my interest in the materiality of objects and the titling of works. Here, I address the historicity of mosaics by a double reference: Iraq as a site of war, and Iraq/Mesopotamia as the birthplace of mosaics – and, in the end, the site of its destruction).

Also, by producing mosaics without effectively using tesserae, this work foregrounds the material process of mosaic making: an attempt to dematerialize mosaics.

"Corpo Musivo" (Mosaic Body) 2004 19.7 x 6.3 x 6.7 in. Smalti, ceramic, glass, fabric, plaster, latex, stained glass paint, cement adhesive, pubic hair.

Corpo Musivo (Mosaic Body) was created for the 2004 Prix Picassiette in Chartres, France, one of the art form’s most important events. For the Prix, I chose to question of the very historicity of mosaic art by exploring the relation between mosaics and religious iconography. This shapeless form is meant to shock, by desecrating techniques and materials precious to mosaic art. The smalti functions as a reference to the body of Christ and other religious figures widely portrayed in mosaics.

"Shattered Dreams" 2004 5.9 x 6.3 x 12.6 in. Ceramic, cement adhesive, expandible foam, grout

Shattered Dreams speaks to the turbulent life of a postmodern icon, Princess Diana. Referencing the language of Pop Art, Shattered Dreams can also be understood as a mosaic icon. With this work I address questions of tradition and popularity, the cult of celebrity and the cultural status of artistic practices. Material, technique and theme are again used to initiate a dialogue with the viewer.

"Shattered Dreams" Detail 1

Detail 1 [complies with safety standards ROULETTE] It is the rear number plate of the car. In this context, this found piece of ceramics suggests that a princess’ life, governed by rules and traditions, [complying with safety standards] is, like anyone else’s, subjected to fate [Roulette = Wheel of Fortune].

"Shattered Dreams" Detail 2

Detail 2 [mind your own damn business] It is the details on the top of the car, like the Union Jack on a Mini. This conveys Diana’s message to the paparazzi: leave me alone!

"Relic" 2007 11.8 x 8.3 in. Tile, airport security labels, latex, stained glas paint, nails, plywood

Relic was presented during the 2007 edition of Rio Mosaico, a time when there was a turbulent debate raging in Brazil about airport safety. By juxtaposing the image of the crucifix with that of an airliner, I explored themes such as religious conflict, terrorism, the limitations of technology and human vulnerability. Durable ceramics are mixed with ephemeral materials such as paper bar code labels and luggage tags. This is another example of how I have used mosaic techniques to make materials and the message of a work inseparable.

"Breath" 2008 9.8 x 9.4 x 6.3 in. Vitreous glass, gas mask, plaster, cement adhesive, grout, stained glass paint.

In Breath, I turned towards a non-European tradition and revisit ancient Aztec mosaics to create a narrative work. This death mask refers to an archetypical science fiction motive; that of the last survivor of a great catastrophe in the future. His remains are exhumed with what eventually turns out to be his funeral mask, a device originally intended to keep him alive.

Mosaic art today can be as conceptually challenging as any other art form and as such can be an inspiration to artists and viewers alike. That is why I dedicate great part of my career to understand and push the boundaries of this fascinating technique. Above all it is the informality that attracts me to it and the fun I can have playing with tradition.

Biography

Born and raised in Brazil, mosaic artist Marcelo de Melo has been living in Europe since 1996. His work has been exhibited worldwide at events including the Picassiette Prix in France, the Society of American Mosaic Artist’s Mosaic Art International in the US, The Ravennarte Young Mosaic Biennale in Italy and Rio Mosaico in Brazil.

De Melo graduated in History from the Federal University of Paraná, Brazil, and recently completed an MA in Fine Arts at the University for the Creative Arts in Canterbury, England. Currently, Marcelo lives and works in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

Websites:

MarcelodeMeloBone

 

MarcelodeMeloHereditaryRose

"Hereditary Rose" 2003 17.7 x 9.1 x 9.4 in. Porcelain bone china, vitreous glass, surgical mask, screws, polystyrene, paper, natural red rose, cement adhesive, grout.

MarcelodeMeloMissile

"American Gifts: Missile" 2003 24.4 x 5.9 x 5.9 in Ceramic, porcelain, plaster, wire, cement adhesive, grout.

MarcelodeMeloGrenades

"More American Gifts: Grenades" 2005 5.5 x 3.9 x 3.5 in Ceramic, porcelain, plaster, wire, metal, cement adhesive, grout.

MarcelodeMeloBombsandGrenade

"American Gifts: Bombs and Grenade" 2003 9.1 x 3.9 x 4.3, 8.3 x 3.9 x 3.9 x 3.9, 4.3 x 2.8 x 2.8 in. Ceramic porcelain, plaster, wire, cement adhesive, grout.

Marcelo_de_Melo_Bomb_detail

"Bomb" detail

Marcelo_de_Melo_Bomb_Detail 2

Detail

Marcelo_de_Melo_Concrete_Evidence

"Concrete Evidence" 2004 25.6 x 5.9 x 5.9 in each. Cast concrete

marcelodemelocorpusfull2

"Corpo Musivo" (Mosaic Body) 2004 19.7 x 6.3 x 6.7 in. Smalti, ceramic, glass, fabric, plaster, latex, stained glass paint, cement adhesive, pubic hair.

Marcelo_de_Melo_Shattered_Dreams

"Shattered Dreams" 2004 5.9 x 6.3 x 12.6 in. Ceramic, cement adhesive, expandible foam, grout

Marcelo_de_melo_Shattered_Dreams_Detail1

"Shattered Dreams" Detail 1

Marcelo_de_Melo_Shattered_Dreams_Detail2

"Shattered Dreams" Detail 2

Marcelo_de_Melo_Relic

"Relic" 2007 11.8 x 8.3 in. Tile, airport security labels, latex, stained glas paint, nails, plywood

Marceloo_de_Melo_Breath

"Breath" 2008 9.8 x 9.4 x 6.3 in. Vitreous glass, gas mask, plaster, cement adhesive, grout, stained glass paint.

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Comments

  1. Marat Nasibullov

    Touchy subject, but interesting.
    “We need to destroy something to create a new”

    • Marcelo de Melo

      Marat,
      Thank you for your comment.
      I do not believe there is anything new. For me things just have different contexts.

  2. Angel Mello

    Marcelo,Parabens! Gostei muito da apresentacao e abodagem ideologica dos trabalhos.Ja os conhecia, mas o contexto assim dimensionado ficou otimo.Um abraco

    Angela

    • Marcelo de Melo

      Angela,
      Obrigado por passar por aqui e deixar um comentario 🙂
      Abrs, Marcelo

  3. Nossa Mercelo, sensacional teu trabalho! Tu és genial em idéias, estilo, bom gosto, expressão de sentimentos e opiniões!
    Parabéns!! Continua trabalhando bastante, dando tua valiosa contribuição ao mundo!!
    Abraços!
    Nonô

  4. Nossa Mercelo, sensacional teu trabalho! Tu és genial em idéias, estilo, bom gosto, expressão de sentimentos e opiniões!
    Parabéns!!! Continua trabalhando bastante, dando tua valiosa contribuição ao mundo!!
    Abraços!
    Nonô

  5. Totally inspirational – adore American gifts and Breath in particular… :))

  6. It’s inspiring to see a mosaic artist who is commenting on the world as they see it; imperfect and disturbing. Art can be a powerful, emotional experience. Thanks for your passion and work.

  7. Amber

    Powerful, disturbing, and provocative…juxtaposed by the message sent via art, even better, mosaic art. It allows the consumer to not only receive the message, but in a beautiful package that allows it to stay in our psyche longer while we ponder all the pieces & parts. Thank you for sharing such well thought through art.

  8. Going back a decade, when I first became acquainted with your work, you’ve pushed the envelope – or even torn it open. Your work uses materials (whether plastic bags, tiles, skins, power tools, shards, QR codes or stickers) in service to your message(s), rather than devoting yourself principally to a material or technique. That said, this is a fine selection of works that DO share the language of mosaic. Kudos to you and to Nancie!

    • George, you are right, I have a wide-ranging interest in the material world and I allow myself to follow the connections between things and ideas moving in and out of standardised genre or techniques. Still, my output in mosaic tends to resonate further than any other medium I have worked with. I have always appreciated your comments throughout the years. Thanks again.

  9. This is the sort of stuff that makes me feel like clearing the decks and starting again!! Riveting work and article…thanks
    P.S….I love the finish – raw like the content

    • Helen, there is no need to clear-up and start again, just keep up the good work you already do 😉
      Thanks

  10. Marcelo, I like your point of view!

    • Julie, it is been a tough journey since my very first mosaic, my choices are not always understood. Many thanks.

  11. Congratulations Nancie for this article. I just rode it : it is wonderfull. I would like to known this artist !

    • Nancie

      I am so happy you enjoyed meeting Marcelo, Renee. He is one of a kind and passionate about what he does.

    • Renée, I am delighted you have enjoyed this article, many thanks. And congratulations with your ‘Mosaique magazine’, it is a beautiful publication.

  12. Congratulations Nancie for this article. I just rode it : wonderfull. I would like to known this artist !

  13. Thoroughly enjoyed this article and the thought provoking mosaics….bravo!

    • Thanks, Doreen, I am happy this article is getting our brains to itch a little. Nancie has done a fantastic job in allowing such diverse inputs.

  14. dig it – cool stuff that moves the ball forward!

    • Thanks, Jim, we try to keep the ball moving as much as possible.

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