When photos of pop culture icons Katy Perry (Met Ball) and Vanessa Hudgens (YouTube Awards) wearing gowns from the collection went viral, we gleefully tweeted and Facebooked.
If we could afford it, you can be sure that we would be sporting any number of items from this collection. Perhaps one of these gorgeous blouses . . .
So far, so good. Sumptuous Byzantine mosaics are now the darlings of haute couture and pop culture. Being mosaic-centric, we are happy. Successful fashion trends like this often “trickle down” to the mass market. Remember this wonderful scene from The Devil Wears Prada?
Unfortunately, we don’t think that the horrendous blouse below is what Meryl was talking about.
The photo above was taken in a very chic department story in Istanbul earlier this week. The imagery you see here has been stolen from contemporary mosaic artist Lilian Broca.
This is not the trickle down of a fashion concept. This is theft. Some designer for a women’s wear manufacturer saw the buzz about Katy and Vanessa in social media and thought, “Aha! If we act fast, this is a trend we can make money from. I’ll just start googling Byzantine mosaic.” And voila, we have the abdomen covering abomination above and the equally hideous rip-off below.
With a little googling of our own, we quickly found several dresses for sale on line made from a fabric with a mosaic “mash up” pattern that included figures from another one of the Queen Esther works.
In this case, the fabric’s designer actually swapped out Haman’s head for that of Mordechai – an aesthetic choice we are a bit baffled by. Bad taste aside, it is, again, theft. And, if we looked long enough, we could probably find the work of still more contemporary mosaic artists in this mish-mosh of a print.
It took Lilian Broca over five years to make the 10 mosaics in The Queen Esther Series which covers the Biblical thriller about a Hebrew beauty contest winner who conceals her religion, becomes a queen and, through the courageous use of her womanly wiles, saves her people from a massacre sanctioned by her husband. Individual works have garnered international awards including a Gold Medal from the 2003 Florence Biennale and a place in MAN’s Exhibition in Print 2011. Famed feminist artist Judy Chicago wrote the forward to a book about the mosaics – “The Hidden and the Revealed: The Queen Esther Mosaics of Lilian Broca” and a documentary about Broca’s life – ”Return to Byzantium: The Art and Life of Lilian Broca” – has received critical acclaim.
This is not the first time that Broca has had her work appropriated. She is understandably frustrated and angry.
In the past I have seen my mosaics reproduced badly and cheaply by unscrupulous companies in 3rd world countries. This time the designs were stolen and printed on clothes. It pains me to great lengths to see my art reduced to decorative patterns on mass produced fabrics intended for wear. As artists, have we no recourse?
As far as we can see – apparently not. International laws on artist’s rights are, at best, flimsy and Broca does not have the resources of a Louis Vuitton or Jeff Koons. It’s just a damned shame.
- Lilian Broca’s website
- Lilian Broca in MAN’s Exhibition in Print 2011 here
- Review of “The Hidden and the Revealed: The Queen Esther Mosaics of Lilian Broca” on MAN here
- Order “The Hidden and the Revealed: The Queen Esther Mosaics of Lilian Broca” here
- Return To Byzantium website
Can it be a month since we left Italy? Why yes, it has been a month and more. And yet, the memories are still so fresh, so alive, so inspiring.
This is the first of two articles about our mosaic-driven sojourn in Italy during the first two weeks of October. We began in Venice and then joined Julie Richey’s Mosaic Masterpieces Tour to Clauiano, Acquileia, Grado, Udine, Splimbergo and finally Ravenna for the international mosaic festival RavennaMosaico 2013. In this article we’ll cover Venice to Spilimbergo; a second article will cover Udine, Ravenna and RavennaMosaico.
It was our experiences during the 2011 Masterpieces tour that prompted the complete overhaul of Mosaic Art NOW to what it is today. Mosaic – both ancient and modern – has so much to offer and contemporary explorers of the medium are creating beautiful, relevant art that deserves a museum-quality presence on the internet. And that’s what we set out to build. (Nudge: Click on any photo on the website for a much larger image)
This year, we arrived in Italy on October 2nd with high expectations and were not disappointed. Come along for the journey where we’ll visit with luminaries like Giulio Menossi, Paolo Racagni, Giulio Candussio, and Ilia Ilyev and discover new talented artists doing amazing things. Prepare to be inspired! First stop, Venice.
The 2013 Venice Biennale
We had only one morning for the city-wide international art fair that is the Venice Biennale and so concentrated our time in the Giardini between the divine Encyclopedic Palace – Massimiliano Gioni’s marvelously curated collection of works devoted to the concept of “collecting” the knowledge of the world in one place – and pavilions we knew had mosaic works we wanted to see. Highlights included:
Jack Whitten 9-11-2001 2006
Abstract painter Jack Whitten‘s (b. 1939) mosaic response to witnessing the terrorist attacks in New York City from his studio was both moving and disquieting. The artist made his own tesserae incorporating paint, crushed bone, blood, glass, ash and more into clear acrylic. The primary image is that of a pyramid which could reference a the iconic Egyptian funereal monuments or perhaps the icon found on the a one dollar bill. Two large areas of chaos reign in the lower one third of the work where one finds tire tracks, foot prints, scraps of newspaper, chicken bones – “traces of the lives that were lost that day” – and below them, at the base of the work, a small strip of tesserae made with human blood. It is an image we won’t soon forget.
MariaLuisa Tadei at the Venetian Pavilion
We left The Encyclopedic Palace having just barely covered a small portion of the treasures within to hustle on over to two pavilions we knew we had to see. The first was the Venetian Pavilion and the multi-work installation by Maria Luisa Tadei that we had covered earlier on MAN. The artist’s homage to Venice’s storied past as one end of the Silk Road included the spectacular walk-in sculpture Il Castello Del Sole, the mosaic San Angelo, and two exquisite small embroideries whose designs were incorporated into fabric specially woven for the exterior Il Castello as well as the ceiling and floor of the work.
Mohammed Banawy at the Egyptian Pavilion
Literally right next door to the Venetian Pavilion was the second “must see” on our list – Mohamad Banawy and Khaled Zaki’s Treasuries of Knowledge at the Egyptian Pavilion. Also covered previously on MAN, there were four works in this installation, two mosaics by Banawy and two sculptures by Zaki. According to Zaki, who was also the curator for the exhibit, Treasuries of Knowledge is an attempt to visualize Man’s quest for knowledge at the intersection of Nature’s infinite wisdom and what Man learns for himself as he walks – and alters – the face of Earth.
What we hadn’t seen in previous photos of The River was that the work included thin lines of clear filament hung in front of the mosaic. Seen live, they added a dimension and sense of water as they captured the light. Speaking of light, we loved this quote that greeted you as you entered the Pavilion. Again, for more on this exhibit, do check out our previous post “Mosaics of the 2013 Venice Biennale: Mohamed Banawy & Khaled Zaki at the Egyptian Pavilon.”
Onward to Udine!
There was, of course much, much more that we loved at the Biennale and in Venice (what’s not to love?), but we’ll save those bits for future articles on MAN. Fast forward to Saturday, October 5th and the Venice Central Train Station where it’s time to join the rest of our merry band of 13 for the start of the Mosaic Masterpieces 2013 tour. We’re going to make tracks to our home base in the Friuli region for the next four days – Udine
When Richey was planning this tour, she worked closely with master mosaicist and Udine native son Giulio Menossi who acted as our tour’s mentor; he and his wife Rosa met us when we arrived at the train station and accompanied us everywhere. By the time we moved on to Ravenna, we had come to think of Menossi as The Pied Piper of Udine.
They came from Australia, The UK, and all points in the US, these mosaic makers, mosaic lovers and lovers of mosaic makers. Here we all are at our first feast (facetiously billed on our itinerary as a “light lunch”) at Trattoria alla Bontá in Udine. Time to introduce our Cast of Characters . . .
This four course repast set the gastronomic pace for the entire trip – Eat Long and Eat Well. This meal took two plus hours from the Prosciutto and Parmesan Crisp Start to the Apple Streudel/Fresh Pineapple with optional Gran Marnier or Grappa Finish. Mangia!
Magic in Clauiano
No sooner had we unpacked our bags at our B&B when we hit the road once again, this time in our cozy private bus for a short ride to spend the evening in “one of the most beautiful villages in Italy” – Clauiano
Last year, this lovely crossroads in the Friulian countryside fell in love with mosaic. Sparked by an idea from Menossi, fueled by the members of the mosaic web site Contemporary Mosaic Art (CMA) and stoked with the energy and enthusiasm of a group of three local young people (Clauiano Mosaics & More Association), the first International Mosaics In Clauiano exhibit was hatched, launched and deemed a huge success.
Richey began planning our visit to this year’s exhibit several months ago with Maida Zerman, President of Clauiano Mosaics & More and Menossi. The plan was that our group – which included three artists with work in the exhibit – would tour the gallery, Richey and I would make a presentation on mosaics in America to a small local audience, and the Mayor would bestow upon your Editor the honorary title of Gran Cavalieri della’Ordine de San Martino for MAN’s contribution to promoting contemporary mosaic. After that, we would all go someplace together and for a casual dinner.
All of which sounded like a plan for a lovely evening and a great way to kick off the tour. But, as would happen again and again on this journey, synchronicity and karma went to work and things just went beyond our wildest dreams.
First, there was a delay in getting things going. No problem, Vice Mayor Remo Livoni walked us over to Foffani Winery where Elizabetta Missoni Foffani gave us a tour that included two stele designed by renowned artist and former director of Spilimbergo Giulio Candussio that yes, served as the inspiration for fabrics in the tasting room made by, of course, that Missoni.
Still not ready for us at the gallery? Well then, we’ll just have to pop into the local bodega, Borgo Claudius, for a little wine and salumi tasting. All that night, there was not a door in Clauiano that wasn’t opened for us instantly. The hospitality and thoughtfulness was, well, overwhelming. This video prepared by Clauiano Mosaics & More will give you an idea of what we’re talking about.
Every single member of our tour group – whether they had a mosaic in the exhibit or not or even made mosaics for that matter – received a gift catalogue, orchids and a handshake from the Mayor, Roberto Fedele (who does look like Robert Wagner in the 60s, doesn’t he?). And that dinner? It was a five course repast of local fare prepared on the hearth of an open fireplace in the middle of our dining room. The hospitality of the tiny village of Clauiano, and in particular the efforts of Maida Zerman, Marcello Nobile and Matteo Pizzutti, was astonishing and humbling for us all. Some photos.
Like we said before – magic. Our evening in Clauiano is an experience that none of us will ever forget. By the time we got on the bus for our moonlit drive back to Udine, we were all in love with Friuli.
Once called “The Second Rome”, Aquileia is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site as “the most complete example of an early Roman city in the Mediterranean world.” We were there primarily to explore the mosaics of the city’s basilica which, like many religious sites in Italy, went through a number of iterations that chronicle the progression of the Christian faith in Europe. Giulio Menossi has been studying the mosaics of the basilica since childhood and we were lucky to have him as our guide.
The basilica is best known for the 4th century mosaics found inn the main part of the building – the largest mosaic floor in Europe – which were revealed in a reconstruction effort in 1909. Imagine chipping away at a clay floor and discovering this . . .
Here is the tale of the prophet Jonah, a sea scene with twelve fishermen representing the apostles, portraits of donors and local dignitaries, scenes from the Gospels, beasties and beauties and exquisite geometric patterns holding it all together.
Far more interesting to us were the mosaics to be found in what is called The Crypt of the Excavations which lies below the main basilica – the 3rd century Gnostic Mosaics.
Giulio Menossi has been studying these fascinating mosaics for years and his appreciation and passion for them was evident as he made observations and passed them on to Richey to translate for us. (Side note: Richey’s fluency in Italian, art history education and mosaic expertise were invaluable as we met with artists along the tour.)
The Gnostics believed that man’s soul was on a journey through the cosmos from the darkness of the Earth to the light of God; that answers to spiritual questions were to be found within, not without. These mosaics represent that journey through a series of levels each of which had a specific time frame (the first level was believed to take 150 years and 8 months) and a specific guide which was often represented by an animal affiliated with a sign of the Zodiac.
(these) mosaics, done largely in the 3rd century, represent the ascent of the soul, through the realm of the planets and constellations, to God, who is represented as a ram. (The ram, at the head of the zodiac, is the Gnostic generative force.) Libra is not the scales, but rather a battle between good (the rooster) and evil (the tortoise); the constellation Cancer is represented as a shrimp on a tree. The basis for the representation in Aquileia is the Pistis Sophia, a 2nd-century Gnostic tract written in Alexandria. – Fodor’s
The Gnostics divided the animal kingdom between Good and Bad based on how their bodies touched the earth. Animals with hooves were Good; those with paws were Bad.
It is a great shame that when it was decided to add a campanile to the basilica complex, its base was plunked down right on top of the Gynostic Cycle and much of the content has been lost.
Menossi told us that the meaning of these mosaics has only very recently been fully realized. By chance, a local historian familiar with the mosaics, Renato Jacumin, met a Gnostic scholar named Luigi Moraldi. Moraldi has just translated the Pistis Sophia, a 2nd century Gnostic text, into Italian. In Moraldi’s translation, Jacumin was astonished to discover precise written descriptions of the mosaics he had been studying for years. During our tour, Menossi carried a much-treasured copy of Jacumin’s book on the mosaics The Doors of Salvation which, sadly, is no longer in print.
La Scuola Mosaicisti del Friuli – The Mosaic School of Friuli – often called Spilimbergo – is one of the Meccas of contemporary mosaic. Since it opened its doors in 1922, Spilimbergo has set the world standard for mosaic training and innovation. We were thrilled at the opportunity to walk the halls of a place that has trained some of today’s most innovative and thoughtful mosaic artists.
This photo is a wonderful representation of Spilimbergo’s past and present. On the floor are examples of the traditional mosaic style that characterizes the school’s beginnings with the barrier-blasting mosaic style introduced in the 1990′s by Giulio Candussio and the contemporary artists he brought into the school to have their works translated into mosaic.
Spilimbergo teacher and friend of MAN Carolina Zanelli (in the pink scarf above) was our tour guide while on break from a class and took us into several classrooms.
The three year course of study at Spilimbergo is rigorous and strict. The goal is to teach the student all of the rules and possibilities of mosaic so that when he/she graduates, they are best able to offer various interpretations of the designs/cartoons that someone else has produced that they have been hired to fabricate. Only at the end of the third year is the student allowed to design their own mosaic and even then, all students work within the guidelines of a very specific project – the head of Christ, for instance.
So, we walked the halls, dazzled by mosaics ranging from reproductions of the pebble mosaics of Greece to works using every possible material in extraordinary and inspiring ways. A few photos . . .
We were all on sensory overload by the time we left the school and like the students below lounging on “the quad”, we were ready for lunch.
Al Bachero is a favorite with students and faculty of the school and we were happy to run into Miriam Bastisch, a fellow mosaic blogger who has just started studying at Spilimbergo this year. Also “in the house” was the wonderful mosaic group Mosaizm – all graduates of Spilimbergo who were also on their way to the festival in Ravenna.
Remember that synchronicity and karma we talked about earlier? Well, it kicked into high gear at Al Bachero. Carolina Zanelli introduced us to Giulio Candussio who just happened to be having lunch with Mosaizm. It was an incredible moment for us; we have been great fans of Candussio’s art and have utmost respect for what he accomplished at Spilimbergo during his term as its Director.
There also is a very American connection with Candussio. In response to the 2001 attack on the World Trade Center, Candussio designed an 118 x 13 foot mosaic entitled Iridescent Lightning which was fabricated by the students of Spilimbergo and installed at the rebuilt PATH station at Ground Zero in 2003. The mosaic is meant to portray “the energy and continuity of life.”
Candussio was very gracious and quickly invited our whole group to visit him in his studio later that day. That two and a half hours was to be one of the highlights of the tour. The artist talked about his career, his decision to go back to revisit and complete projects that he had begun as a young man, and where he sees mosaic going in the future. At one point, he took us through a book of pen and ink sketches that he uses to develop an idea from concept to design to making; it was an opportunity to walk into the mind of a great artist – a very great privilege.
So ends our first article about our 2013 mystical, magical, mosaical tour in Italy. Subsequent articles will cover studio visits in Udine and then on to Ravenna for the festival. We do hope you are enjoying the trip! Many thanks to James Turner (JT) and Allan Punton (AP) for contributing photos to this article.
By far one of the most interesting and thought-provoking works at RavennaMosaico 2013 was Andrej Koruza’s “Signals From the Limit”. Just watch.
The work was mesmerizing and we spent a good half an hour experiencing and exploring it. We had many questions for the artist and luckily, most of them were answered in an interview by Friend of MAN and Ravenna Art blogger Luca Maggio. Andrej Koruza is as fascinating as his “Signals” – exploring the “limits” of mosaic to characterize what he sees as social phenomena. “I am convinced that some mosaics and some mosaic artists – those who dare to (re)search, not find, and to be radical – can change the world.” Enjoy the interview and thank you, Luca Maggio – Nancie
Luca Maggio: Andrej Koruza (Koper , Slovenia, 1982), I know that you attended the Mosaic School of Friuli (Spilimbergo), but where did your desire to use mosaic in the 21st century come from?
There have been various stages and many people who have contributed in the development of my real need to make mosaic. If we talk about the School of Mosaic, then I must mention Giuseppe Semeraro , my master mosaic for the third year , who gave me an immense passion and made me realize that the mosaic can be whatever I want it to be: technical, crafts, art. From there I began to doubt everything I was taught about mosaic. I think that questioning is even now one of the things that defines me and makes me analyze things thoroughly .
My interest in mosaic as an art form has always gone hand in hand with the interests of society and the phenomena that occur in it. I spent every Friday in the course of my last year at the Mosaic School of Friuli attending the classes on philosophy and psychoanalysis at the Faculty of Humanities in Koper, Slovenia. After these classes, I spent hours and hours talking about mosaic, philosophy, art, and cinema with a couple of friends philosophers and anthropologists – Matej Vatovec and Tomaž Gregorc – who have contributed greatly to the refinement of critical thinking in me, which subsequently took shape in my mosaics.
The consequence of all this rethinking on mosaic was my first series of mosaics called Tessera and escape, which were made in Colombia in 2009. I feel like they are like a manifesto, rules that force me when I make mosaic. I think it was during that period that I realized the potential of mosaic; at that particular moment in history all of the great systems (political, economic, social) were crushed. The individual started facing Capitalism, which has slowly subdued both the political and the social system, exploiting the individual in order to derive more profit – the only remaining hope for the individual is a new form of collective consciousness, that will bring with it the formation of new, more just, harmonious and livable communities. From this perspective, I believe that the roles of both mosaic and a mosaic artist are very important since they have the ability to represent new forms of relationships between individuals, between an individual and a group, and also among groups.
I am convinced that some mosaics and some mosaic artists – those who dare to (re)search, not find, and to be radical – can change the world. So, it bothers me when I see mosaic competitions with juries full of people who have to defend their visions of mosaic or people unfit to understand the world in which the young mosaic artists live. (I have also met a few wonderful exceptions but they are in the minority.)
On the other hand, those who will change the world will not be stopped by mosaic juries. For me, the mosaic is a living language as the language we speak is alive and there are no rules dictated by tradition that can define it. For my part, I can appreciate only mosaics and mosaic artists in their work that help to define and show what is or may be mosaic, showing what until now was not. Among the people who contribute the most to this, and that have had the greatest impact on me and my mosaics are CaCO3, Samantha Holmes, Jo Braun, Marco de Luca and Felice Nittolo. And also Daniel Torcellini and Luca Maggio who contribute to the culture of contemporary mosaic as authors of critical texts.
LM: The white and gray metal, the purity of the wood – even when you build your very intricate machines and mosaics, always there is a sense of motion or “escape ” in many of your works. The photo below portrays many of the components from your last formidable and hypnotic installation “Signals From the Limit”, including you, with your body, as one of the gears that drives the work. I ask you to continue to talk about your idea of mosaic and in particular of “Signals From the Limit”.
I look at the mosaic as a science; a science of relationships between tiles, particles, elements, entities, etc. and, as such, I find it very interesting, because I understand it as a tool of analysis of most of the phenomena that happen on this planet. Almost every phenomenon can be divided into smaller parts that can be analyzed.
Signals From the Limit started as I watched the growth of the uprisings in North Africa, the so-called “Arab Spring”. I was fascinated by this revolutionary spirit that now, with the help of technology, has led to radical changes in their region, whether for better or worse cannot be said yet.
I thought in Europe and especially in Slovenia, people will never be able to find some common ground, and regroup to demand and cause change, but it happened, almost inexplicably. A sequence of events led to major protests and subsequent changes, but they were not radical because the protests haven’t continued. In short, on the one hand the idea for the mosaic aprang from this alternation of social order and disorder, and on the other from an interest in the role of technology in contemporary art and mosaic.
To tell the truth I was disappointed by most of the things I saw related to technology and art, especially interactive . From there, the decision to try to do something with the help of Borut Jerman and KID PINA we received funding from the Slovenian Ministry of Culture and after 6 months, with the collaboration of Borut Perko (who was in charge of circuits and sensors), I finished the mosaic. Signals From the Limit is my first attempt at doing this and if I look at it now I ‘m satisfied. I especially like its form; the mechanism behind the mosaic becomes an integral part of the mosaic, the mosaic is not only the tessera placed on the canvas, but also what stands behind it – the mechanism, technology. I believe that the mosaic should critically reconnect to the period in which we live and Signals From the Limit is definitely an attempt at this link.
I hope I succeeded , and all the attention it received positive feedback to RavennaMosaico surprised me and motivated, so I will continue even stronger .
LM: What is GRUPA and what is your participation in it? Finally, will there be new shows, new machines? Are there future projects you would like to talk about?
GRUPA is a group of architects, designers and craftsmen working in the field of social innovation, social projects and volunteering. Our goal at the beginning (three years ago) was to help establish a new type of entrepreneurship in Slovenia – a social one. One of the first opportunities we identified was working with the CPU (the ReUse Center) with whom we began a collaboration. The CPU is a landfill, where objects that can be reused, such as furniture, cutlery, appliances, etc. are separated from other waste, adjusted, arranged and then sold at low prices. GRUPA tried to create an integrated cyclic system for CPU, so there would be no trash anymore.
Another very interesting and important project which we worked is Dela Gostilna where young people from difficult environments are taught the craft of waiter and assistant cook and, in the end, they are offered to work in the restaurant opened within the project. GRUPAs role was to do the architecture, interior design, the production of the interiors and all the graphic design for the restaurant. Our aim was therefore to create a bond between the community and the restaurant before its official opening, a goal that we achieved by organizing events called Delavnica za malico. During these events, people helped us to collect information about the type of restaurant they wanted in the neighborhood and what dishes they wanted to eat. By doing so we have achieved a great impact in the media before the restaurant was open and after the opening was full from the first day onwards.
Within GRUPA, I took care of the development of the projects in collaboration with Nina Mršnik and Gaja Mežnarič Osole, and also the production of objects that were used in those projects (like the furniture used in Gostilna Dela). GRUPAs activities are currently on hold, but our workshop/studio is working independently now, under the name DELAVNICA. It is a laboratory for the design and production of wooden furniture and objects where I work with Matej Rodela. We are developing our first series of objects and there is a nice atmosphere in the studio. I love working there because I’m challenged with practical problems all of the time: it keeps the mind in constant exercise and, since we are continually producing objects, it also helps me to rid myself of the fear of not being able to produce art, as it has already happened in the past, when I was questioning my abilities.
Now I am mature enough to confront every project I take on and am not afraid of either losing or winning. I want to take risks and to be radical. I want to tread on the edges of mosaic and try to define it, understand it and improve it, always. I’m not afraid to make mistakes, to go beyond its limits, because I am convinced that even passing its limits, we can still define and understand mosaic much better than when we are not even trying to reach them. This is why I find the work 80mesh – The shape of sound by CaCO3, and also some mosaics by Samantha Holmes and Jo Braun to be the most important works of contemporary mosaic in recent years, works that I consider to be genuine works of contemporary art.
As for me, I am pleased because Signals From the Limit will be exhibited along with the work of Karina Smigla – Bobinski: ADA from 27 November to 12 December at the Festival of Transitory Art – Sonica 2013.
I also have several mosaic projects in the testing phase, which I hope to produce in 2014. The project I currently regard to be of the utmost importance is a performance, where mosaic and dance will come together in an interaction between dancers and an installation – mosaic. The project is in the process of planning and research funds are necessary for its production – therefore producers, benefactors, patrons, millionaires… come forward!
- Original article by Luca Maggio
While we were at the SAMA conference this past spring, we had the opportunity to sit down for a long chat with the well known Japanese mosaic artist Toyoharu Kii who is also a leader in his country’s mosaic community. We both agreed that it was high time for better, stronger, more timely communications between the Eastern and Western mosaic worlds. We are excited, therefore, to publish this article by Toyoharu featuring award-winners from this year’s biennale mounted by the Mosaic Art Association in Japan. Here’s hoping for a continued lively exchange of ideas and innovation here on MAN. Enjoy – Nancie
We are happy to share these mosaic works shown at Mosaic Biennale 2013 hosted by the Mosaic Art Association in Japan (MAAJ) this past September 9th through 15th at the Yokohama Civic Gallery in Azamino, Japan. Founded in 1995, MAAJ has been hosting the Biennale since 2007 and it has become an important and valuable place for mosaic lovers to present their work to the public. Both members and non-members are encouraged to submit works. This year’s exhibition was juried by five people including Motohiro Hashimura, a veteran mosaicist, and myself.
In the prize-winning works presented here, you may notice some aspects that are common to all of them. First, marble is highly used. Second, many of the tesserae are square. Third, the grout lines are uniform. Finally, the surfaces are flat. These points indicate that Japanese mosaic artists are not yet free from their longing for Roman mosaics. This is because the information on mosaic trends and innovations from overseas is still not easy for us to obtain.
Since Japan is not physically close to Europe, we do not have the chance to see modern, energetic mosaics in person. Moreover, mosaic news is usually conveyed in English, French or Italian and so there is a language barrier which makes the situation worse. Even with these obstacles, we expect to see more vital works at MAAJ’s future exhibitions which we hope to mount on an annual basis beginning next year.
Grand Prize: Junkichi Miyauchi, Quattro Stagioni
This artist started making mosaics in the 1960s and is one of the pioneers in Japan’s mosaic community. He has departed from the Roman classic mosaic aesthetic but has continued to use basically square tesserae. Miyauchi’s unique characteristic exists in how he carefully shapes his tesserae to have small, rough expressions as if the tesserae had broken up naturally even though they have been cut very purposefully. We very much appreciated the lyrical expression throughout these works.
Second Prize: Nobue Ozaki Flower Goat & Osmunda Bird
Nobue Ozaki uses tesserae in the traditional way but we found a great sense of fun in the forms of her panels and the motifs she used. Most of the works in this year’s exhibition were serious and only a few came from playful minds. In that context, we chose her work.
Third Prize: Hisao Matsuo Don’t Tell What Was Seen in Woods
0.1 inch square marble tesserae are placed densely. We considered that the cumulation of the tesserae in this work is more than that of the mere stone materials that were used to make it and it is like it has been transformed into the image itself. The artist has achieved a highly elaborate expression and so he was awarded a prize.
Honorable Mention: Toshimi Mori AMBIVALENCE 1309
We valued the artist’s experimental attitude using also untraditional materials such as metal plates, woods and etc. not only the traditional ones. We hope other artists also will go beyond their existing standards, trying various ways of expression.
Encouraging Prize: Yoshimi Aizawa Following My Memories of Mt. ASO
This artist has ongoing poor sight and has difficulties in seeing the weak light. She built an image of a mountain scenery with her friend giving her the description of it on the mountain. We can feel her desire by any means to embody and express the things she can see. Also the materials are elaborately selected and made.
Encouraging Work: Kayoko Nakai The Bird Remembers His Life, 44″ H x 44″ W.
We see that this artist is still acquiring skills in working with tile, but appreciate her obvious will to devise new ways to work with this material as well as her sense of freedom and fun.
She has just graduated from university. She experienced mosaic at a workshop in the school and was fascinated began to make by herself. We wanted support her.
Juror’s Work: Motohiro Hashimura The Wind in the Sky
This the maquette of a much larger public work. It has “spreadingness”and is refreshing.
Juror’s Work: Toyoharu Kii, On the Way of Walking
This is my work. Italian marble called Perlino is used. I fear that it was made somewhat too compact and modest. I need more vigorous and wild tesserae.
We beg to differ with Toyoharu about the quality of this work which we see as another wonderful example of his mastery of positive and negative space, rhythm, texture and pattern. Many thanks to the artist for this article, his photographs, and the continued inspiration he provides to artists worldwide.
This summer, a new mosaic tradition was born in Florence with the first edition of Musiwa, an international exhibition featuring works from some of the medium’s most important and revered artists in order to . . .
. . . create a huge, unusual opportunity to gather many renowned artists in one place for a universal meeting where there could be an open exchange of emotions and ideas brought on by magnificent mosaic works.
Mosaic art was spread out all over Florence with installations at the Impruneta’s Contemporary Art Center, the Town Hall of Pontassieve, the Hall of Heroines at the Borgo di Pontassieve and the Ancient Hospital in S. Antonio. Musiwa culminated with an exhibition of “finalists” chosen by a committee at the historic Guelph Palace that ran from June 15 through July 16th.
Beyond the city-wide presentation of mosaic, Musiwa is also noteworthy for its origins – a joint venture between WART (WorldArtist – Art, Culture & People), Florence’s prestigious jewelry school, Perseo, AGT (Accademia Giardini del Tempo) and AIMC (International Association for Contemporary Mosaic). Enthusiasm during the organizational phase proved to be contagious and the event quickly won the support of the communes of Firenze, Pontassieve, Lastra a Signa and Impruneta.
So, who was behind this? Musiwa’s Artistic Director and President and the mastermind behind the event is Maestro Francesco Chimienti, the founder and current president of WART. An artist himself, Chimento has a great love for mosaic and was a co-signer of the “Being Mosaic Foundation Manifesto” with Giulio Candussio. Other key players included Musiwa’s Vice-President, Maestro Massimo Campaioli, who is also the founder/president of PERSEO and Florence’s Ambassador of Jewelry to the World and Rosanna Fattorini, an accomplished mosaic artist and Vice-President of AIMC.
Technical advisors who aided in the selection of works included Professor of Art Drawing and History Gianni Becciani, mosaic restoration expert Dr. Clarice Innocenti, the Pallazo Pitti Museum’s Director of Silver Materials Dr. Maria Sframeli and well-known painter Maestro Alberto Gallingani.
While Musiwa was not a competition, two artists, Nane Zavagno and Toyoharu Kii received special prizes “for the outstanding quality of their work” and mosaic artist, educator and innovator Giulio Candussio received a special award “for his magnificent cultural personality as well as for the scientific proposal ‘Being Mosaic Foundation Manifesto’.”
Within the group of 40+ mosaic artists who were part of MUSIWA there were many familiar names – De Luca, Menossi, Iliev, Goodwin, Cicognani, Louro do Rego, and Magdi among them. There were also artists new to us whose works feel fresh and exciting.
Musiwa’s organizers are already expanding the reach of the program and preparing for next year.
Given the positive and enthusiastic results of Musiwa 2013, the Musiwa project will be turned into a foundation very soon. With international partners such as Florence, its Province, the Precious Stones Factory and other prestigious associations, there will be continued in-depth exhibitions and thematic meetings based on the mosaic art form in many new venues that will reach into schools, museums, art galleries and the media. The official headquarters of Musiwa 2014 will once again be Florence and the event is scheduled for June – August 2014.
A list of all the participating artists is below. Our thanks to Musiwa’s organizers for sending along to MAN all of this information and wonderful photographs. Bravo!
Enjoy – Nancie
Outside of Santiago, Chile something magical is happening.
A concrete jungle of a metro station is becoming a brilliant, shimmering natural history museum. A community wracked by drugs and violence is reconnecting with itself and its natural heritage. And a cadre of young artists with no formal training in the art form is becoming one of the most accomplished mosaic teams on the planet.
Meet Isidora Paz López, sculptor, ceramicist, visionary and Artistic Director for a project that will cover the 84 pillars of the metro station in Puente Alto, Chile with mosaic. The 37 year old mother of two is determined that she and her crew of 32 people will complete all of the pillars – an estimated 2,500 square meters of mosaic – in just 12 months.
It was the mayor of Puento Alto, Manuel José Ossandon, who gave López the pillar challenge. As his last term as mayor was ending, Ossandon wanted to leave behind a gift to the community – something big, something bold, something transformational. It started with mosaicing two long walls in the station. These mosaics depicting the nearby mountain ranges at sunrise and sunset would be the first time that art would be incorporated into metro station in Chile.
When that ground-breaking project was completed, the mayor turned to López once again, this time with the prospect of covering the 84 pillars. At first, Lopez was daunted, “Impossible! Too ambitious!” Then, she was inspired.
We created the concept of showing the flora and fauna of our area and to do it from micro to macro. People would discover in the mosaics all of the amazing nature that we have around us. There would be images of all sorts of animal, insect and plant life. At the bottom of each pillar would be the scientific and common names for each species, so there would be be an educational contribution to the city as well. – Isidora Paz López
Right now, 52 of the pillars are complete and another three underway. The deadline for all 84 pillars is the end of October.
Simply put, the pillars are fantastic – alive with a vibrancy and joyfulness that is captivating. Insects, birds, reptiles, mammals, flowers, herbs, cacti, the large, the small, the intimidating, the adorable – all manner of species are represented in a graphic style that lends itself beautifully to mosaic technique. Major elements are outlined with a thick black line that really makes them “pop” forward for the viewer. Even with limited access to tile, López and her team have created a cohesive palette that holds the 84 pillars together without a single visual glitch. The mosaics are engaging, stunning and elegant.
The challenge we have at the moment is to finish on time. We are making the central figures of the mosaics with so much love that we take more time than we expect with every one. We don’t want to reduce the quality of our work for the quantity of our work, so the challenge is to do it in the most fantastic and efficient way that we can.
López’ organization for making the mosaics is very similar to the way work was divided among ancient Roman mosaic workers.
Working in teams, we have four groups: The Artists who make the designs and execute the principal figures in the mosaics, the Helpers who work alongside the Artists in creating the principal figures, the Background group, most of whom are students, who fill in the solid colors, and finally the Grouting group who also move the scaffolding for us from pillar to pillar. We are 32 workers in total and we work Monday through Friday, six hours a day.
Each pillar starts with a photograph, sometimes one taken by López’ husband, German nature photographer Chris Lukhaup. The pillar is then assigned to an individual artist (“Head of Pillar”) who is in charge of the four to six people will work with him/her. After an overall design is agreed upon, all work of the work is executed on site.
On average it takes two weeks and 16 people to complete one pillar – and remember, there are 84 of them – and a deadline only three months away.
When we start a new pillar, we make a total visualization of the work, choosing the colors and also the language that we will use for the design. Language is what we call the type of cuts we use, for example “feathers”, “scales”, “squares”, etc.
Asked if she has a favorite pillar, López says
It is hard to chose one, but at the moment it is the dragonfly. It was a challenge for me to do because of the complex symmetry. Now that it is complete, I really like the transparent effect of the wings a lot, but – every week there is a new favorite.
Cruising through the hundreds of photos on López’ Facebook page, we found a couple of favorites . . . this fellow with his beautifully articulated fur, for one.
Then there’s this slithery charmer with his exquisitely shaped scales.
And, there is something about this face that just makes us giggle.
López says that the support from the Municipality of Puento Alto has been outstanding.
Our salaries (nice for artists!) and all of the materials are paid for by the Municipality of Puento Alto and I am grateful for their strong support of what we are doing. Not only do I have the chance to select the people who will work with me, but the city has given me complete artistic control as well. They also have provided us with a crew who help us with preparing the pillars – cleaning them and removing all graffiti before we begin, moving materials, security and making the scaffolding. We could not do this without them.
When asked what she intends to do when the project is done, López says:
I don’t know! This is a “dream job” – we do what we like and it has been wonderful to be assured of a good salary for almost a year! I feel that many good things will come. We have learned a lot as individual mosaicists but also as a group. All that we know about organization, the dynamics of work, our systems and the unique style of our designs we have learned as we worked. I don’t want to lose all of what we have gained as a team so my greatest hope is to continue working with this group of people and to fill up the streets with our art.
And the community’s response?
Every day people stop to comment on how beautiful the mosaics are and to thank us for what we are doing. Some people leave the metro at the station before this one just so they can walk part of the way home to see the mosaics. Others come from far away just to see what we are doing and to congratulate us. We have also noticed that many of the neighbors have become interested in mosaic; they come by in the afternoons to collect leftover tile shards for use in their own homes.
“Creative Placemaking” is a term we came upon this week in an art publication. It was used to describe “art projects that have enlivened and enhanced neighborhoods and communities.” We think that is exactly what Ms. López and her group are doing in Puente Alto. This is as stunning a public art project as we have seen anywhere. It is also one of the most ambitious – its schedule, its scope, its beauty, its intention – everything is outsized and over-the-top.
With all that they have gained through this experience, we can see the mosaicists of Puente Alto packing their nippers to travel to distant cities to do a lot more Creative Placemaking.
It is now our pleasure to introduce you to the Pillar Team of Puente Alto.
Bravo a todos!
The Pillar Team of Puente Alto including: Artistic Director Isidora Paz López, Alejandra Guzmán, Paulo Meyer, Valeria Merino, Carolina González, Gonzalo San Martín, Hector Velozo, Javiera Melo, Soledad Fuentealba, Nicolás Chacón, Sabrina Morgado, Catalina Larraín, Isabel González, José Olivos, Paloma Cale, Felipe Olivos
MORE MOSAIC IN PUENTE ALTO: The success of the Pillar Project inspired the City to commission López and her crew to cover still more Metro installations. There is now a total of over 3,000 sq meters of mosaic. See our update with more fabulous photos HERE
- Our 2014 story on the completed mosaics in Andamento, the journal of the British Association for Modern Mosaic
- A MAN update on the project with meters of new work can be found here
- More photos of the project can be found on López’ Facebook Page www.facebook.com/isidorapaz
- López can be contacted via email at: email@example.com