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New-Ancient Mosaics: Marie-Laure Besson Exhibits in Tours

Marie-Laure Besson “Autonomous No.1″ 2012 40 x 60 cm Marble, aluminum

Like a lovely, visual tonal poem of winter, this photo of Marie-Laure Besson’s Autonomous No.1 totally captured us when it appeared in our Facebook Newsfeed.  We have covered the French artist here on MAN previously as part of the mosaic collective Mosaizm.  Now, we were delighted to discover that she has a one-woman show running in Tours.  Sadly, New-Ancient Mosaics has a very short run – it closes on January 5th – so if you are in France, hurry to see this rich display of work from artist whose thoughtful homage to the ancient produces extraordinarily appealing contemporary work.

Espace Boisdenier Tours, France

Besson’s artist statement explains the genesis of the exhibit:

When imagining this exhibition, I looked to the origins of mosaic – the sources – the first steps which contain the essence of this technique; the representation of scenes or objects of daily life, the relationship between space and mosaic, its function within architectural spaces, and the nature of the material itself – its shape, size, color and collection.  From these ruminations three series were born:  Autonomous, Large Spaces and Little Things.

“Autonomous No3″  2012 37 x 50 cm Marble, silex, gold, aluminum

The Autonomous works are variations on the Greek “lithostrotos oikos” a term which refers to pavements made of colored marble and other stone tesserae arranged in a more or less ordered way within a background of monochromatic tesserae which were frequently white.

“Autonomous No5″ 2012 34 x 50 cm Marble, smalti, aluminum

In these works, Besson explores a number of variations on the theme of large pavement work –  selecting unexpected materials, setting them at various levels, changing andamento to create energy and injecting splotches color of contemporary color that would have shocked the ancient Greeks.

Marie-Laure Besson “Autonomous No.1″ 2012 40 x 60 cm Marble, aluminum

In Besson’s second group of works, Large Spaces, we see the artist riffing on one of the most well-known and beloved of ancient mosaic genres – the Unswept Floor or asarotos oikos.  Described by Pliny, these mosaics usually paved eating areas in the homes of the Greeks and Romans and depicted leftover food scraps in a trompe l’oeil manner.

Unswept Floor 2nd Century CE

In this series, Besson gives complete focus to one discarded item, using it as a focal point for her exploration of how the technique of asarotos would play in the modern world.

These objects, often represented in isolation, have been literally petrified in their state of abandonment – solidified for an eternal moment in a temporary state between past greed and future oblivion.

“Large Space No3″ 2012 60 x 55 cm Marble, smalti.

In Large Spaces No.3, we see her toying with the subject matter and perspective of asarotos to delightful effect.  The shadow of the glass is the personification of liquid – a flat surface of aluminum – while the empty water glass is constructed in the traditional mosaic technique.

To create the skewed perspective in this group, as in Large Space No2 below, Besson “played with the andamenti to create depth by varying the direction and size of the tesserae.”

“Large Space No.2″ 2012 54 x 40 Smalti, gold, aluminum

In Large Space No1, Besson takes the requisite tromp l’oeil shadow out of the mosaic altogether.  We are left with an ebony pool of sparkling water with a single golden lotus blossom floating at its edge.

“Large Space No1″ 2012 54 x 40 cm Smalti, gold, aluminum

For her Little Things, Besson turned to what she calls “perishable elements; modest, lonely and fragile objects.”  They are endearing little snapshots constructed with a sure hand.

“Pensée – Little Thing” (Pansy) 2012 29 x 29 cm Marble, stoneware, white gold, coating.

“Legere comme – Little Thing”  (Light as a . . . ) 2012 29 x 29 cm Marble, coating

One of the things we love about New-Ancient Mosaics is that it offers an opportunity to look at a very broad spectrum of Besson’s work.  One can see how the various themes she has pursued in previous years inform Autonomous, Large Spaces and Little Things.  It’s not often we get to see the progression of an artist – and in such a beautiful space . . .

“Fragment No2″ 2011 46 x 51 cm Marble, stoneware, coating, iron frame.

“Fragment No3″ 2011 43 x 56 cm Stoneware, Silex.

“Croissance (Growth) No2″ 2011 68 cm diameter Marble, tile, smalti, silex, stoneware.

New-Ancient Mosaics runs through January 5th and the artist will be on site for the entire run.   How lovely it would be to walk the rainy streets of Tours and end up in at Espace Boisdenier for a long chat with Ms. Besson over a glass of wine and, perhaps, one of these fabulous canapes . . .

Buffet at the opening of New-Ancient Mosaics

VIDEO of Besson in her studio

Fragments from marie-laure besson on Vimeo.


  • Where:  Espace Boisdenier, 43 rue de Boisdenier, 37000 Tours
  • 1 hour from Paris by TGV, 2.5 hours from Chartres by car
  • Now through January 5, 2013  Monday thru Saturday
  • 10:00 am to Noon/2:00 pm to 7:00 pm
  • Closed January 1

Artist Website:



Share this article


  1. Liz Brazelton

    I’m just now finding this on Facebook and MAN- what extraordinary pieces. Even mosaic food! Thanks, Nancie.

  2. Lilian Broca

    I am fascinated by her work. She captured the essence of objects, be they man-made or not.

  3. Luis Laso Casas

    Many thanks for sharing such an exciting artist’s work. I love the complexities and rather minimalist elegance within Besson’s work; it enhances in the main, her rather restraint and monochromatic use of colour.

  4. Linda

    Hi Nancie,
    Thank you for bringing to life such a wonderful newsletter and showing me an awesome world of mosaic that inspires me to keep learning and continue my journey to be a mosaic artist. I live in an isolated area of south east Australia and I rely solely on the internet to learn everything I can about mosaics – so thank you for my weekly “fix” of MAN.

    • Nancie

      You are most welcome for your “fix”, Linda! Keep creating!

  5. celso adolfo

    delicadeza,sutil recordação do clasico…

  6. George Fishman

    As a long-time fan of anamorphic distortions and trompe l’oeil, I was esp taken with M-LB’s Large Space #3. The compounded illusions are most effective, while the reflective “shadow” reminds that this is an object, not a “picture.” Thanks for this profile.

    • Nancie

      Agreed, George. Besson gives us plenty to think about with such simplicity and elegance.

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