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“There is no world without mosaics” – Helen Miles

Helen_Miles_David_2015

Helen_Miles_David_2015

We are great fans of Helen Miles, the very fine Scottish artist who currently resides in Greece. Her classically inspired mosaics (like the portrait of her husband, David, above) charm us and her exquisite writing never fails to inspire us.  If you want to know how the mosaically obsessed walk through the world, read on.  We thank Miles for the opportunity to repost this article from her blog Enjoy – Nancie

Photo of barnacles by Helen Miles

Barnacles, Scottish West Coast  Photo: Helen Miles Mosaics

All summer I felt bereft; longing for mosaics, pining for my studio, aching for the peace and purpose of my work. Every summer I am obliged by the tradition of nine-week-long school holidays to down my tools and go where family and heart and other people’s needs direct me. We always go to Scotland, sometimes driving through Europe, sometimes stopping in England, once striking off eastwards to Turkey or simply staying in our little hillside house on the Greek mountain of Pelion and hanging out on the beach.

Farook relaxing with a good book on the beach. Photo: Helen Miles Mosaics.

Farook relaxing with a good book on the beach. Photo: Helen Miles Mosaics.

There is much to appreciate about the summers. For all their broken-upness, the two days here, three days there nature of them, they allow us all to reconnect. I see old friends, spend time with my increasingly decrepid parents and visit my favourite places. But nonetheless I feel bereft because I can’t be making mosaics.

Tiled floor, Hereford Cathedral, England. Photo: Helen Miles Mosaics.

Tiled floor, Hereford Cathedral, England. Photo: Helen Miles Mosaics.

Usually I compensate for the lack of mosaic time by dragging my reluctant boys to obscure (or not so obscure) mosaic sites. I tailor the summers to make sure our road trips take in mosaic places that otherwise I might never get to see. Over the years we’ve been to Aquileia, Rome, Ravenna, Venice, and even slogged across the Anatolian plains to visit Zeugma. This year there were no such opportunities. We stayed in London for two nights and I snatched a few hours to see Tessa Hunkin at work on a new project with her Hackney Mosaic Project volunteers, but other than that, the entire summer, all 63 days and counting, were entirely mosaic free.

Detail of Hackney Downs Mosaic made by Tessa Hunkin’s Hackney Mosaic Project. Photo: Helen Miles Mosaics.

Detail of Hackney Downs Mosaic made by Tessa Hunkin’s Hackney Mosaic Project. Photo: Helen Miles Mosaics.

But fortunately for me, there’s no world without mosaics. Mosaics are really nothing but the slow and deliberate accumulation of parts, the materials change, the way of achieving that accumulation changes, but essentially they all boil down to the same thing – to pattern, line, movement, form. So, bereft of mosaics, I found them everywhere. We use them to build walls, to shore up seas, to protect our cattle or our kings.

Wall. Ruined castle, Perthshire, Scotland. Photo: Helen Miles Mosaics

Wall. Ruined castle, Perthshire, Scotland. Photo: Helen Miles Mosaics

We see them in the flow of rivers, the line of hills, the shapes of plants and the markings of feathers and shells. We find patterns in the greatest of all human achievements – in mathematics, in music, in poetry, in architecture – they are essential to the way we exist. Codes, chess, mazes, maps, textiles – all, when you strip away the wrapping, are nothing more than patterns and lines. This summer, watching a performance at the Edinburgh Festival, I even saw mosaics in the choreography of the dancers’ moves – that fluid crescent, the perfect curve of energy, muscle and motion.

Sea urchin shell. Photo: Helen Miles Mosaics

Sea urchin shell. Photo: Helen Miles Mosaics

Without my own mosaics to focus on, I found my mosaic antennae constantly zinging and pinging, alerting me to real and imagined mosaics. I couldn’t stroll down a street, lie on the beach, go on a country walk, visit a museum or do any of the other myriad ordinary things that the summer entails without finding an actual mosaic or a mosaic connection. On the Sydenham High Street in London, lined with funeral parlours and fast food outlets, I looked up and found this decorating a public building:

Detail of a mosaic, Sydenham High Street, London. Photo: Helen Miles Mosaics

Detail of a mosaic, Sydenham High Street, London. Photo: Helen Miles Mosaics

Visiting an English Heritage house in Herefordshire, I was delighted to see this:

Micro mosaic of Roman ruins, Croft Castle, Yarpole, Herefordshire. Photo: Helen Miles Mosaics

Micro mosaic of Roman ruins, Croft Castle, Yarpole, Herefordshire. Photo: Helen Miles Mosaics

These casual, incidental mosaics like this one at an Edinburgh shop threshold, remind me that mosaics aren’t an esoteric, weird out-there kind of thing, but something that all kinds of people in all kinds of ways have sought for and appreciated from those Roman banqueteers adorning their dining floors to 19th century country gentlemen on their grand tours to our own elected councillors thinking how to brighten a dull facade.

Shop threshold, Edinburgh, Scotland. Photo: Helen Miles Mosaics

Shop threshold, Edinburgh, Scotland. Photo: Helen Miles Mosaics

Nature, of course, does it best.

Dandelion. Photo: Helen Miles Mosaics

Dandelion. Photo: Helen Miles Mosaics

Nature is the one that gave us mosaics in the first place (a leopard’s coat, a peacock’s display, a fish’s dappled markings) and then gave us stone. When that mosaic antennae of mine was pinging about but sending no signals back, I found stone, that lovely neglected stuff, to relish in. I got up early to really look at the stones that line our favourite beach and found that once I started looking there was more and more to see:

Rock strata, Kalamaki beach, Pelion, Greece. Photo: Helen Miles Mosaics

Rock strata, Kalamaki beach, Pelion, Greece. Photo: Helen Miles Mosaics

It turns out that once you stop you can’t fail to notice that the process of life, the slow erosion of all we build and create, produces it’s own mosaics. Paint weathers in the rain, street tiles break, porcelain acquires an exquisite patina of cracks:

Flaking paint on wooden door, Perthshire, Scotland. Photo: Helen Miles Mosaics

Flaking paint on wooden door, Perthshire, Scotland. Photo: Helen Miles Mosaics

Nature can’t seem to help itself – there’s a constant need to break out, push up, slide in. It’s what we do when we make mosaics, fitting parts around other parts and once we see that there is no world without mosaics, we see that that’s precisely what’s going on around us:

Tarmac and pebbles, New Town, Edinburgh, Scotland. Photo: Helen Miles Mosaics

Tarmac and pebbles, New Town, Edinburgh, Scotland. Photo: Helen Miles Mosaics

Succulents between rocks, Perthshire, Scotland. Photo: Helen Miles Mosaics.

Succulents between rocks, Perthshire, Scotland. Photo: Helen Miles Mosaics.

In the process of my mosaic finding I discovered too that my brother, well into middle age and living quietly on the shores of Loch Fyne on Scotland’s west coast, is busy making his own version of mosaics – cutting out random quotations from the Bible and sticking them with that restless obsessive mosaic making urge, onto styrofoam balls:

‘Mosaics’ of paper. Photo: Helen Miles Mosaics

‘Mosaics’ of paper. Photo: Helen Miles Mosaics

Add in my mother’s knitting and my great grandfather’s embroidery and you can see that my mosaic thang runs deep and strong:

My great grandfather’s embroidery. Photo: Helen Miles Mosaics

My great grandfather’s embroidery. Photo: Helen Miles Mosaics

Dear reader, I must confess that I was so determined to show you that there is no world without mosaics I went so far as to take a rather elegant photograph of sheep’s poo in a field in Perthshire but on the off chance that you are eating your breakfast, I thought I’d leave you with this rather more salubrious photograph of beachnut casings:

Beachnut casings. Photo: Helen Miles Mosaics.

Beachnut casings. Photo: Helen Miles Mosaics.

Mosaics by Helen Miles:

Helen Miles "Wedding Mosaic"  2014

Helen Miles “Wedding Mosaic” 2014

Helen Miles . Copy of Nilotic mosaic

Helen Miles . Copy of Nilotic mosaic

Helen Miles "Yoga"

Helen Miles “Yoga”

 

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BiblioMosaico: The Book as a Muse for Mosaic

Verdiano Marzi “Pinnochi” 2011 (Italy)

“I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.”                                                                                                                –  Jorge Luis Borges

Surely, Book Paradise will look something like this . . .

Riga_Library_Interior_Rosetta_Berardi

National Library of Latvia at Riga   Photo: Rosetta Berardi

Photo Rosetta Berardi

. . .  the stunning National Library of Latvia in Riga designed by Gunnar Birkerts, current home of BiblioMosaico, a collection of mosaics devoted to The Book created by some of the medium’s modern masters.

Photo Rosetta Berardi

Bibliomosaico is the brainchild of Rosetta Berardi, editor at Edizioni del Girasole, a specialty publisher of art books based in Ravenna, Italy.  Berardi conceived the exhibit in 2009 in conjunction with the first RavennaMosaico, the International Festival of Contemporary Mosaics.  That year, Berardi invited nine artists to “reflect on the form of books, on the representation of a book as an object that wants to be looked at but not read, a book that is ‘not a book’, a book which may have lots its words but gained a specific conceptional meaning as an open work of art.”

Toyoharu Kii "Crime Report - Testimony" 2013 (Japan)

Toyoharu Kii “Crime Report – Testimony” 2013 (Japan)

Since then, over 50 artists have participated in Bibliomosaico and now 34 of their works are scattered throughout the Riga Library where visitors will discover them hidden in the stacks, reclining on book trolleys and displayed on shelves.

Nikos Tolis "Volume arte mosaico" (Mosaic Art Volume) 2013 (Greece)

Nikos Tolis “Volume Arte Mosaico” (Mosaic Art Volume) 2013 (Greece)

Sophie Drouin "Censure" 2013 (Canada)

Sophie Drouin “Censure” 2013 (Canada)

Some of the mosaics are quite literal, like Verdiano Marzi’s Pinocchi or Sophie Drouin’s Censure.  Others, like Gerard Brand’s Six Pages in Lace and Samantha Holmes’ Absence  pay homage to Ravenna’s Byzantine mosaic heritage in new and intriguing ways.

Gérard Brand "Sei Pagine in Pizzo" (Six Pages in Lace) 2013 (France)

Gérard Brand “Sei Pagine in Pizzo” (Six Pages in Lace) 2013 (France)

Samantha Holmes "Absence (Mobile)" 2013 (USA)

Samantha Holmes “Absence (Mobile)” 2013 (USA)

This current showing of Bibliomosaico is part of a larger mosaic-centered exchange between Riga, the current Cultural Capital for the European Union and Ravenna, which is vying for the title in 2019.  Also on display in the Library are large-scale reproductions of some of Ravenna’s most iconic Byzantine treasures.

Andris Vilks, Director of the Library, Ouidad Bakkali, Minister of Culture-Ravenna,  Giovanni Polizzi, Italian Ambassador

Director of the Latvian National Library Andris Vilks, Minister of Culture for Ravenna Ouidad Bakkali, Italian Ambassador Giovanni Polizzi

We were first charmed and delighted by Bibliomosaico during RavennaMosaico in 2011 and found it to be one of our top three favorite exhibitions for RavennaMosaico 2013.

Kazumi Kurihara "Il Libro Legge" (The book reads) 2011 (Japan)

Kazumi Kurihara “Il Libro Legge” (The Book Reads) 2011 (Japan)

One of our favorites from 2011 was Raniero Bittante’s Bubble Gum Italia. Three copies of the Italian constitution encrusted with red, white and green smalti adhered with used wads of bubblegum were accompanied by a video of Italians blowing bubbles. This work turned out to be far more literal than we thought at first glance.  Bittante is reflecting on the 150 years of Italy’s political unity in a classical mosaic sense – each individual, regardless of race or ethnicity, is part of the whole – like the tesserae of a mosaic.  Bubble gum as the “mortar” or glue that holds it together?  Of course.  Just think of the DNA contained in a wad of used bubble gum.  Brilliant.

Raniero Bittante "Bubble Gum Italia" 2011 (Italy)

Raniero Bittante “Bubble Gum Italia” 2011 (Italy)

We think BiblioMosaico is an absolutely splendid representation of how the medium can be used to convey powerful themes and individual expression.  We are going to leave you here with images from all three editions of BiblioMosaico and commentary by curator Berardi.  The exhibit runs through August 30th.  All photos unless noted were taken by Berardi who is also a professional photographer.  Enjoy – Nancie (And don’t forget to click to enlarge)

Felice Nittolo 2011 (Italy)

Felice Nittolo “EVOCARE” (EVOKE) 2011 (Italy)

Rosetta Berardi:

The artist’s book denies itself nothing, it can even dare to be unreadable. Every artist gives a personal interpretation of the book using the force of substance, the plasticity of structure, the diversity of materials and bringing into play his or her own sensitivity. The results are poetical objects that challenge the writing and concentrate on technique, form and harmony.

Mélanie Lanoe "Impronte" (Fingerprint) 2011  (France)

Mélanie Lanoe “Impronte” (Fingerprint) 2011 (France)

Viewers are encouraged to watch the artwork and read it on the basis of a visual grammar. The meaning of the book is expressed without words. The book, depository of the written word, changes its function: it is no longer meant to be read, but rather looked at to.

Silvia Naddeo, 2011 (Italy)

Silvia Naddeo “Storia di una Zucchina” (The Story of a Zucchini) 2009 (Italy) Photo: George Fishman

A creative exercise that involves both young and experienced artists, who engage in the production of artworks conceived for being displayed among paper books, like jewels set in a ring.

Julie Richey "Vademecum" 2014  (USA)

Julie Richey “Vade Mecum” 2014 (USA)

The exhibition was originally designed to give a look of precious elegance to a space that communicates and interacts with the works in an exemplary way.  

Atsuo Suzumura, 2011

Atsuo Suzumura “9 Libri” (9 Books), 2011 (Japan)

Mosaics fascinate us, and the subject of the book makes them even more enchanting. – Rosetta Berardi

Pamela Irving "Mr. Logomania" 2013 (Australia)

Pamela Irving “Mr. Logomania” 2013 (Australia)

Rosanna Fattorini  2009 (Italy)

Rosanna Fattorini 2009 (Italy)

Sonia King "Tabula Rasa" 2013 (USA)

Sonia King “Tabula Rasa” 2013 (USA)

Roberta Grasso, 2011 (Italy)

Roberta Grasso, 2011 (Italy)

Riga_Library_1_Rosetta_Berardi

National Library of Latvia at Riga Photo: Rosetta Berardi

VerdianoMarziPinocchi2011PhotoRosettaBerardi

Verdiano Marzi "Pinnochi" 2011 (Italy) Photo Rosetta Berardi

Works on shelves

Photo Rosetta Berardi

Luciana Notturni_Cecità - esperienza_toccante_2013RosettaBerardi

Luciana Notturni "Cecità esperienza toccante" 2013 (Italy) Photo Rosetta Berardi

Library exterior 1

Photo Rosetta Berardi

Sophie_Drouin_Censure_2013_Photo_RosettaBerardi

Sophie Drouin "Censure" 2013 (Canada)

Gérard Brand Six pages en dentelleFRANCIA2013photoRosettaBerardi

Gérard Brand "Sei Pagine in Pizzo" (Six Pages in Lace) 2013 (France)

Samantha Holmes

Samantha Holmes "Absence (Mobile)" 2013 (USA)

Toyoharu_Kii_Crime_Report_Testimony_2013_PhotoRosettaBerardiI

Toyoharu Kii "Crime Report - Testimony" 2013 (Japan)

Felice_Nittolo_2009_Photo_RosettaBerardi

Felice Nittolo

Rosanna_Fattorini_2011_PhotoRosettaBerardi

Rosanna Fattorini 2009 (Italy)

Riga_Library_Interior_Rosetta_Berardi

 

Felice_Nittolo_Photo_RosettaBerardi

Felice Nittolo 2011 (Italy)

Nikos_ Tolis_Volume arte mosaico_2013_Photo_RosettaBerardi copy

Nikos Tolis "Volume arte mosaico" (Mosaic Art Volume) 2013 (Greece)

BiblioMosaico_Riga_Dignitaries_PhotoRosettaBerardi

Andris Vilks, Director of the Library, Ouidad Bakkali, Minister of Culture-Ravenna, Giovanni Polizzi, Italian Ambassador

Kazumi_Kurihara_Il_Libro_Legge_I_Libro_2011_Photo_RosettaBerardi

Kazumi Kurihara "Il Libro Legge" (The book reads) 2011 (Japan)

Julie Richey_Vademecum_2014 - USA_PhotoRosettaBerardi

Julie Richey "Vademecum" 2014 (USA)

Mélanie Lanoe_Impronte_2011 - Francia_PhotoRosettaBerardi

Mélanie Lanoe "Impronte" (Fingerprint) 2011 (France)

Silvia_Naddeo_2011_PHotoRosettaBerardi

Silvia Naddeo, 2011 (Italy)

Atsuo Suzumura_2011_PhotoRosettaBerardi

Atsuo Suzumura, 2011

Pamela Irving

Pamela Irving "Mr. Logomania" 2013 (Australia)

Sonia_King_Tabula_Rasa_2013_PhotoRosettaBerardi

Sonia King "Tabula Rasa" 2013 (USA)

Raniero Bittante

Raniero Bittante "Bubble Gum Italia" 2011 (Italy)

Roberta Grasso

Roberta Grasso, 2011 (Italy)

National Library of Latvia at Riga   Photo: Rosetta Berardi Verdiano Marzi "Pinnochi" 2011 (Italy)  Photo Rosetta Berardi Photo Rosetta Berardi Luciana Notturni "Cecità esperienza toccante" 2013 (Italy) Photo Rosetta Berardi Photo Rosetta Berardi Sophie Drouin "Censure" 2013 (Canada) Gérard Brand "Sei Pagine in Pizzo" (Six Pages in Lace) 2013 (France) Samantha Holmes "Absence (Mobile)" 2013 (USA) Toyoharu Kii "Crime Report - Testimony" 2013 (Japan) Felice Nittolo Rosanna Fattorini  2009 (Italy) Riga_Library_Interior_Rosetta_Berardi Felice Nittolo 2011 (Italy) Nikos Tolis "Volume arte mosaico" (Mosaic Art Volume) 2013 (Greece) Andris Vilks, Director of the Library, Ouidad Bakkali, Minister of Culture-Ravenna,  Giovanni Polizzi, Italian Ambassador Kazumi Kurihara "Il Libro Legge" (The book reads) 2011 (Japan) Julie Richey "Vademecum" 2014  (USA) Mélanie Lanoe "Impronte" (Fingerprint) 2011  (France) Silvia Naddeo, 2011 (Italy) Atsuo Suzumura, 2011 Pamela Irving "Mr. Logomania" 2013 (Australia) Sonia King "Tabula Rasa" 2013 (USA) Raniero Bittante "Bubble Gum Italia" 2011 (Italy) Roberta Grasso, 2011 (Italy)

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Adams.jpgAndrea Sala & Giulia Alecci "Co-musivo" 2013  VideoHouston.jpgJim_Bachor_This_is_not_a_craft_2010_11inx14insara.jpgWebb_Bryant Patio RaysMohamed Banawy  "City 1" 2011  49 x 49 cm  Clay, glass, cement.Luca Barberini Bone Flowersandres_basurto_large08.jpgBeauchamps-SeasonofSunandwind-2AprilBegayhungry-for-gold-320x312Jolino_Bessera_DontCutYourTongueOnTheRhinestonesMarie-laure-BessonFragmentsIVBiggsTide6272969822_38f84a7e5f_z.jpgMeredith Live Oak bark, recycled tempered glass, paint, metallic powders39.jpgMangere+Mosaic.jpgGerardBrandGerstheim2014JesusJo BraunMarco_Bravura_Recuperi_d'_OroSunflowers+smalti+unglazed+ceramic+63+x+48+cm.jpgLilian_Broca_Queen_Esther_Revealing_Her_True_IdentityCarl&SandraBryantCaco3+movimento+n7full.jpgPixel_Context_Pixel_TributeToNicanorParra_2014_150x200cm (3)Photo:  APLaura Carraro "Breath" 2013  123 x 40 cm.  Stones, marble, tile, silicone tubing, PVC, inverted mirror.  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