We want them all. The Leopard. The Hippo. The Bear. The Llama . . . We want the whole zoological catalogue in stone by Melissa Moliterno and Andrea Poma of Aneme Mosaico.
Animals have always been the subject of mosaics.
But, Aneme Mosaico’s enchanting images were something completely new to us. Their fresh, unique approach to the subject matter immediately brought to mind the exquisite watercolor illustrations of the 1700s and 1800s.
And indeed, according to the duo . . .
“Our works are based on the careful study of the materials and colors, on the the ability to synthesize ancient mosaic techniques with the zoological catalogues of the 19th century.”
Moliterno (Cosenza, Italy 1988) and Poma (Parese, Italy, 1989) met while studying at the Ravenna Fine Arts Academy in Italy. They have both shown extensively, with Poma taking the prestigious Experimental Prize at GAEM 2013 for his innovative work Impressioni. We found this work to be a highlight of RavennaMosaico 2013. (Previous story on MAN here.)
Their collaboration in creating these glorious critters began in 2013. In 2014, they presented this body of work as Animalario in an exhibition in Ravenna. (You will want to click twice to see the large versions of these photos.)
“Pictures and stones, cement and blank papers are mixed, becoming a single entity. Our materials are chosen according to the shape, to their veining and to their composition. They are no longer regular tesserae, but anatomical ones; stones that become cheeks, paws, and ears.”
Yes, and just when you thought these works couldn’t get any more delightful, there is the panda.
Aneme Mosaico is offering these beautiful mosaics for 250Euro. We are not sure how many are left after the holidays and there are other, smaller works of birds that are equally spectacular. Please contact the artists at email@example.com with your questions. (We should probably make it clear that MAN has no financial arrangement with Aneme Mosaico at all.)
Enjoy – Nancie
Even as Ravenna Italy is the eternal steward of mosaic’s Byzantine past, it is also the incubator for the art form’s dynamic future.
This is no more evident than in the Young Artists and Mosaic (GAEM) competition, a biennial contest hosted by the Art Museum of the City of Ravenna (MAR) in conjunction with the international mosaic festival, RavennaMosaico. Invited artists under the age of 40 are asked to create works that “should deal with the constitutive, formal & poetic language of mosaic.” (MAN article on 2011 GAEM here.)
This is where the very nature of mosaic is poked, prodded, and, if successful, expanded. In 2013, this included the use of nails and felt, an audience-participatory build-your-own-ceramic hamburger and a luscious video of a man and woman painting tesserae on one another – imagine those Byzantine icons coming alive. Even in the crowded traffic-jam of Notte d’Oro last October, we were mesmerized by many of the works and quite honestly flumoxed by others.
Takako Hirai (Japan) won the Traditional Technique Award for her absolutely stunning Vene which appeared to be the construction, destruction, and reassembly of an organic shape that seemed ready to depart from the wall at any second.
Andrea Poma (Italy) took the Experimental Prize for his brilliant Impressioni – a work which turned the mosaic component of “interstice” on its ear. Poma used an etched piece of glass to project the shadow of spaces between tesserae onto a wall – as opposed to those shadowy spaces being created by the indentations in a wall covered in mosaic.
These are not your nonna’s mosaics – to be sure. They are surprisingly cerebral, engaging and beautiful. But . . . are these musings on an ancient, time-consuming, historically pedantic art form relevant today? Or, as Exhibit Curator Linda Kniffitz puts it:
“Does mosaic still possess an autonomous, expressive power outside of the confines of Ravenna’s strong identity as a custodian of this ancient and highly symbolic art?”
What follows are the thoughtful and illuminating Exhibition catalogue essays by Curator Kniffitz, who is also the Director of the Center for International Documentation of Mosaic at MAR, and her co-curator for the 2013 GAEM, Daniele Torcellini, art critic and professor at the Academy of Fine Art Ravenna and Genoa. They offer knowledgeable, passionate responses to the questions above and in the process touch on art history, criticism, current art world trends, and the nature of art vs craft — all within the context of the glorious possibilities that mosaic has to offer. This is heady stuff for mosaic makers and nerds alike. Take your time and enjoy! – Nancie
Finding an Identity for Mosaic – Linda Kniffitz
When we initiated the GAEM competition in 2011, our intent was to stimulate a discourse on contemporary art in relation to mosaic and in doing so, to create a moment of comparison between makers from different schools and countries. In 2013, we received another set of very positive contributions in terms of both the richness of the visions proposed and the international provenance of the young artists.
But why indeed should we dedicate a competition to a technique that appears to be so complex and slow compared to the current trends in the visual arts that no longer envisages linearity and narration, but instead reward circularity, contamination and the use of different means of expression?
Does mosaic still possess an autonomous expressive power outside of the confines of Ravenna’s strong identity as a custodian of this ancient and highly symbolic art?
In its beginnings, mosaic was associated with the strong political purposes and economic investments (carefully chosen imagery, precious materials, highly specialized artisans, ) that forged it into a supremely stately instrument. In the last decades of the 19th century, it was rediscovered for its inherently symbolic character in an anti-Impressionist and anti-Naturalist function. The young art critic George Aurier, in championing the acceptance of Symbolism, spurred the revival of medieval visual art forms like mosaic and mural decoration.
In the 30s, the Futurist painter Gino Severini (whose name is now synonymous with modern mosaic) extolled the virtues of mosaic not for its value as a surface covering, but for its extraordinary capacity to express a synthesis – to condense an entire meaning into a single stylized, highly representative sign.
The Exposition of Contemporary Mosaics of 1959 in Ravenna organized by mosaic author and historian Giuseppi Bovini signaled the beginning of a multi-decade long discussion of mosaic and its place as an art form. In the 1990s, mosaic’s “right to be” within the contemporary artistic landscape was championed by Italian art critic, painter and philosopher Gillo Dorfles who initially defined it as a “super modern medium of expression.” In the end, however, he unfortunately came to look at mosaic solely within the context of artistic “design-object”, a phrase which smacks of refined craft.
In the twenty-first century, the time has come to circumvent all of these deliberations and endow mosaic with an identity – a term out of fashion, perhaps, but still useful. Mosaic needs an identity that must be directed and defined – squeezed for all its worth in order to extract its meaning and possible new directions. Mosaic possesses visual characteristics which capture attention because they are not accessible with a single glance; in order to really appreciate a mosaic, it is necessary to not only explore the perceived image created in the medium, but the relational properties of the individual pieces that compose the image.
In looking for an identity for mosaic, it is also necessary to clear the field of the production of many famous contemporary artists who may utilize certain elements of mosaic like fragmentation and the recomposition of elements in the construction of an image, but have not consciously chosen to create a mosaic. English art philosopher and author David Davies states that it is not possible to appreciate art in a purely perceptive way disassociated from any contextual knowledge. This is especially important if the implementation is mosaic. An artist is obviously free to express an inspiration in whatever technique he wishes thus affirming his autonomy. But, if he decides to use a technique like mosaic, he chooses an approach that has some specific characteristics that drive the work such as the synthesis and simplification of the sign, the fragmentation and recomposition of constituent elements.
All of these characteristics of mosaic can be expressed in many forms; can depart from the use of inert materials, can embrace installations and even video art. A shadow projected onto a wall from a sheet of etched glass offers the shapes of shimmering tiles. Drops of silicone, each laden with its own microstory, executes a larger narrative in the course of the tesserae. The installation of lights in a dark room provokes the same awe that grasped ancient visitors to the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia.
From a different perspective, the unconventional use of mosaic tiles to create a table of fast food that transforms the surface-observer into a product developing-maker.
These are all examples of a centuries-long journey begun with enamels, mortars and scaffolding; mosaic reinventing itself in shapes and instruments always new; it would be ill-advised to attempt an inventory.
Critical Issues – Daniele Torcellini
How could I handle a critical text on mosaic works in Ravenna in 2013? The subject of the discourse is inherently difficult.
The mosaic. Poised between ancient glories, romanticism and modernisms that reopened a road, a contemporaneity discontinuous but conceptually expanding. Even the place is not immune to difficulties. Ravenna. The privileged location; sensitive, yes, a natural observatory. But, it obscures a hazard; a codification of mosaic that does not represent all the possibilities of the mosaic. And then, broadening the field of vision, a centre emerges clearly unresolved. the mosaic, or rather, the works that are done in mosaic by those who make mosaics, or even some of an extreme derivation, choices, are almost lacking a critical approach in a systematic, recognized code.
Except for a few, and even good, isolated voices, the absence is felt of a trend in which my text will be received, making it primed for the likeminded or hardened against ideas not shared. There is no lack of theory – Filiberto Menna in The Criticism of Criticism, 1980, would be a good starting point – but of critical practice. A debate that allows collecting ideas, proposals, suggestions – that takes stock of the situation, that contextualizes, that defines the playing field, that interprets and evaluates and asks itself about its role.
To break the ice, I would like to emphasize how in this contemporary world – wherein technical boundaries are now weak, where things overrun into each other without discrimination, the admixtures kept under watch by the critics and the markets – the choice to oxidize one’s expressive aspirations around an idea – fixed, self-limiting, of dubious association as it is considered – and often wrongly – that the mosaic appears both brave (a dip back into the tank of liquid contemporaneity as a springboard for something that is not old-school and not even vintage), and not very significant in terms of the results achieved (“today you can say anything any way” is the opinion of some). But, it is a choice, that of the mosaic, which in the end appears beyond the distinctions between the liberal arts and mechanical arts – artistic techniques and decorative techniques – with all the related hierarchies of values. A visual, aesthetic and expressive and perhaps even scientific search for meaning, can be made with mosaic as with any other medium or combination of media.
One the role of the medium, even in its relation mostly to physics – of the environment in which a phenomenon plays out – my reflection would find a stopping point. The medium determines the result; it circumscribes the possibilities, insinuates itself under the skin of the message (it is the message, as Marshall McLuhan suggested, adding that the content of a medium is another medium).
And mosaic as a medium – an artistic medium – has specific characteristics that define it clearly, that trace a story and articulate a closeness, that, after all, allows moving well, more or less easily, inside them, generating waste, deviance, obsessions that are the key to reading a present and active vision. So – Hamlet’s question is raised – is it necessary that the text take a turn to a “critique of the mosaic” tout court? No. I would say not. I would try to avoid a “critique of the mosaic”. I would prefer to remain in the area of a critique of visual art, however, that knows how to direct its attention to what is created in mosaic, recovering in the same medium the parameters which are the basis of discourse.
But, this way I find myself in a flash adopting an approach of medium specificity, of an old-fashioned modernist? In debt to the views of Clement Greenberg? An approach pre-postmedial? That’s not done. I could also frame the multiple experiences that today revolve around the mosaic in the conceptual category far more fresh in coinage of metamodernism – recklessly running the risk that it appears little more than a banner with a dusting of novelty – insubstantial. So, the two theorists of the metamodernism movement, Timotheus Vermeulen and Robin van den Akker, lucidly surmise the present on the pages of metamodernism.com: “The metamodern structure of feeling evokes an oscillation between a modern desire for sense and a postmodern doubt about the sense of it all, between a modern sincerity and a postmodern irony […] between control and commons and craftsmanship and conceptualism and pragmatism and utopianism. Indeed, metamodernism is an oscillation.”
The frame and methodology defined, my personal inclinations, oriented in the direction for the sense, postmodernly uncertain, of sight, and thereabout, for truth, I have already had occasion to express myself, and I would finally take over. The themes of light and colour, but in their more symbolic and les scientific meanings. The relationship with optical art, in an investigation of the infinite possibilities of repetition in modular structures. Thus, the aesthetics of the movement – already in the ekphrasis of early Christian and Byzantine mosaics – from the point of view of those who are regard, consequently, of what is regarded. And, I would also put on the plate, trying to avoid any simplistic terms, those attitudes and those procedures called “mosaic” that the contemporary visual culture, throughout the twentieth century, witness and saw spread – already clearly suggested by Renato Barilli in his reading of the method of George Seurat. From the mosaic screens of the first colour photographs to screens of pixels and in between the works of artists like Ellsworth Kelly, Gerhard Richter, and Thomas Ruff.
I would not ignore also the most critical perspectives and conceptual practice of appropriation, citation and translation of the messages of others from Sherrie Levine to Vik Muniz and around which the mosaic has fought in battles with uncertain outcomes.
But what, finally, are the specificities of the mosaic as a medium today? Some hypotheses. Fragmenting to give meaning. Decomposing to recompose, leaving in sight the signs of the process. The allure of seeing through and the charm of seeing a texture, a grid – even as theorised by Rosalind Krauss – more or less regular or intricate, dense or sparse. A proximal view and a distal view. Seeing the surface and the representation, seeing the surface generate a representation. Seeing yourself see.
GAEM 2013 Artists:
- Luca Barberini
- Laura Carraro
- Rafaella Ceccarossi
- Benedetta Galli
- Takako Hirai
- Kim Jae Hee
- Silvia Naddeo
- Andrea Poma
- Elena Prosperi
- Andrea Sala
- Matilda Tracewska
PS: September 20 through November 9th 2014, MAR is hosting another Young Artists and Mosaic exhibit “Eccentric Mosaic” with 26 invited artists including many seen above. This exhibit is being shown in conjunction with a solo exhibit by Toyoharu Kii, “Whites & Blue” and the entrants in the city’s recent Visual Mosaic: Ravenna Video Contest. More info here.
Video produced by MAR covering Notte d’Oro 2013, the opening night of RavennaMosaico
In 2013, the
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