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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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 . . .
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 . . .
VIDEO of Besson in her studio
- 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: www.marie-laurebesson.com