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By Gilles Antoine and Renée Malaval
The 7th edition of the French magazine, Mosaïque, is the publication’s best yet; chock full of incredible content that covers the modern mosaic scene from Chartres, France to the Blue Mountains of Australia. Artists profiled include Jim Bachor, Marcelo de Melo, Elaine M. Goodwin, Samantha Holmes, Verdiano Marzi, Marian Shapiro, and Toyoharu Kii. The international mosaic biennale RavennaMosaico 2013 is covered extensively as is the Ami/Giannotti/Randi exhibit in Saint-Eman, “Transposition” in Seattle and mosaics from the Venice Biennale. The English translation makes it easy to read and enjoy. We highly recommend this magazine and are grateful for the opportunity to contribute two articles to it. For information, go here and then email: firstname.lastname@example.org. We hope you enjoy this “teaser” – the cover article written by editors Gilles Antoine and Renée Malaval.
All artists carry with them, consciously or not, the iconography of artists who preceded them. Great creators bring to their own work a personal stone, (in this case a tessera) which will allow them to enter into the history of their work and for which they will in turn become a reference. This is what Valeria Ercolani is accomplishing. She is a mosaic Master, born and educated in Ravenna, capital of mosaic, a city enriching her life since infancy with the light of Byzantine mosaics of the 5th and 6th century. Without rejecting her heritage, she has allowed her rich artistic and technical education to bear fruit.
Can a mosaic work have a feminine personality? Yes indeed, since this is one of the first things to cross the mind of someone looking at Valeria Ercolani’s mosaic art. Is it the mixture of delicate feeling and profound strength that both seem to emanate from it?
The observer’s gaze peruses the work in a sort of perpetual motion, carried by the changing rhythm of the lines, capturing the subtle vibrations of colour and light in its pathway along materials that are rough, refined or precious. A breeze seems to have gone across the undulating and often monochromatic surfaces, pushing over a single tessera here, a whole line there. Sometimes a tessera stands up, rebellious, attracting attention, reminding us of the randomness of creation; but often, stone and marble tesserae, cut with such mastery, undertake a metamorphosis to create the illusion of cloth that could have been woven by some primitive tribe.
One cannot but admire the meticulously chosen materials, the virtuosic cut of each tessera, not to mention their placement, so precise and immediate with endless invention: flat, dimensional, with soft curves and light variations, abrupt breaks, or delicate intermingling. For someone looking to define or illustrate the word « andamento », all it takes is to look at one of her works and it becomes obvious: each tessera is in its ideal place, intimately conversing with its neighbours.
Valeria Ercolani’s personality and style are perceptible in each of her pieces: original, unique, recognizable at first glance. One can say, right away : « it’s her ! »
In her painting and sketching, she is a refined and sensitive colorist. She is perhaps at her best in her monochrome work, which is all about subtle nuances.
This is a far cry from storytelling*, from political ideology. This body of work, potent and sunny, seems free from petty messages, and instead carries us into the realm of universality, where anyone looking at it understands its meaning. Valeria Ercolani’s strength lies in the virtuosic use of mosaic language, transcended and applied to bear witness to the universal.
It is the work of a great contemporary artist that we are seeing. Let us rejoice as we look forward to her future work. Like a gift that is unwrapped with deliberate slowness, we already savour, in anticipation, the discoveries that await.
(*Storytelling is a seductive strategy used frequently by politicians to convey an idea in a non-threatening manner. The term is used verbatim in French as well.)