Friday, 6 October 2017 16:41:51 Europe/London
We know that many artists balk at the idea of writing an artist statement. How often have you heard, “my artwork speaks for itself.”
Sound familiar? If you are one who resists we hope you will read on because crafting a statement doesn’t really have to be a painful experience. In fact it can be helpful to both the maker of art and to the viewer as well.
Why it’s important
We heartily agree with the idea that artwork should have enough interest to draw the viewer in all on its own. However, we also believe that a few words of accompaniment are often really helpful to those who are intrigued by what they see. Your audience may simply want to know more; more about you and why you made the individual piece or body of work that currently holds their interest. They are curious about what turns your crank and why you do what you do.
When you are right there, in the gallery, you can easily talk to exhibition visitors about your work. But … when you are elsewhere, your statement can give the viewer the added insight they seek
Many artists think finding the right words and then getting them organized into coherent paragraphs that describe the multitude of variables going into the making of their artwork is impossible. Often, artists are so opposed to the whole statement writing thing they don’t actually get that the process can be painless and well … easy!
Think of it this way; you are simply strengthening the link between the people who come to your exhibition and the artwork you have created. When the viewer reads your statement they are looking for information that only you, the maker of the art, can provide.
An artist’s statement is often requested as part of the required material when submitting to juried exhibitions. They are also needed when making an application for art creation grants. Here are a few tips to help you when writing your statement:
If you remember to keep it short and simple you will find that writing an artist statement can actually help you clarify your own artistic goals. There is no need to write an overly long and awkward essay that is both difficult to write and even harder to read!
- • Write about what motivates you to head to the studio and begin working
- • Describe your choice in materials
- • Describe your process; why do you choose to work with these materials in this particular format?
- • Are there any problems you are trying to solve or are there questions you are posing?
- • Use language that is easy for everyone to understand
- • Describe at length what you think the viewer should be seeing and feeling
- • Be overly directive, telling the viewer how they ought to be approaching your artwork or insisting where their focus should be when looking at the work
- • Give detailed instructions about what the work really means
- • Give lengthy descriptions about your influences
This type of discourse is best left to curators, art writers, critics, agents and gallery owners. When you leave these things out of the statement equation you are left with the words that you and only you can provide.Read More
Friday, 6 October 2017 16:38:55 Europe/London
DSC27485, Hearst Castle, San Simeon, California, USA Photo courtesy of Jim G via Flickr
The Roman Pool: Hearst Castle
William Randolph Hearst (1863-1951) best known for building America’s largest newspaper empire was also a collector, patron and enthusiastic appreciator of the arts. A tract of land was handed down to him from his father and mother in San Simeon, California. For years the Hearst family used this property as a retreat and planned “camping” trips to the remote property; though camping for the Hearsts might not be what most of most think of when heading out to the back-country. They had a fairly comfy set-up that consisted of elaborate sleeping quarters and a separate dining tent.
Eventually Hearst embarked on a building project which would span almost three decades from 1917 to 1947. He engaged the young up and coming San Francisco architect, Julia Morgan, to design the grouping of mansions that would later become known simply as Hearst Castle. Hearst himself referred to the compound as “The Enchanted Hill” as the buildings of the sprawling estate were erected at the top of a remote rise on the 250,000 acre property.
The Roman Pool
Over the years, visitors to the mansions on the hill included a long list of the rich and famous, including movie stars, national and international politicians (including Winston Churchill), presidents and financial moguls. Visitors were expected at the evening dinner table but during the daytime were free to roam the estate and entertain themselves.
One of the entertainment areas, favoured by many of these guests was the indoor Roman-style pool. It was constructed over the course of seven years between 1927 and 1934. This indoor pool complex includes a room for exercise, sweat baths, hand-ball courts and dressing rooms; in all, 1, 912 sq. ft. of meticulously tiled opulence.
Hearst’s fascination and love of mosaic tile artwork is showcased in the Roman Pool The one inch square smalti glass tiles that pattern the walls, ceilings and floors of the pool area are predominantly blue in colour. Hearst was fascinated by the ancient mosaics that decorated the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia in Ravenna, Italy. It can be seen from the image below that this fascination definitely influenced the choice of mosaic tiling for the roman pool complex.
Mausoleum of Galla Placidia ceiling mosaics" by Petar Milošević - Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons
As well clear glass tiles with gold foil fused into their interior create patterns throughout the pool area. These touches of gold create a feeling of luxurious decadence in all who visit this bath. The video below captures details of some of these gilded images.
Visual artist, Camille Solon (1877-1960) worked closely with architect Julia Morgan creating the mosaic features that graced the indoor pool. He also worked in other areas of the Enchanted Hill project and was the art director at the construction site from 1925 to 1944. His brother, Albert Solon, co-owned the tile company which supplied materials for the mosaics and tile features on the San Simeon estate, which is likely how Camille became involved in this project.
Hearst Castle Photo courtesy of Dylan via Flickr
Friday, 6 October 2017 16:37:50 Europe/London
The Busker Photo courtesy of Terry Nicholls
Terry Nicholls: For Love of the People, the Land and the Mosaic Art Form
Canadian mosaic artist, Terry Nicholls creates mosaic images that reflect the spirit of the people where he lives and the stark beauty of the land that surrounds. We can see the power of the ocean and the way it carves into and gives shape to the land through his work. Nicholls’ mosaicked images of the island of Newfoundland, capture the islander’s way of life, their stoic nature and details of daily life on “The Rock”.
Terry took some time recently to share a bit about himself and his art practice with Hobby Island Mosaics. Like many of our clients and readers, Terry lives in a location far from Canada’s large cities and artistic centres. He manages his career as an artist from what many would consider to be a remote location. As is the case for many of you reading this article, the internet is his only contact with this community. During the course of our interview he describes the challenges he faces in his mosaic art practice, talks about his work, his influences and how he handles the practicalities of conducting his career successfully.
From the work in your portfolio we can see that, like many Canadian artists, you take inspiration from the natural environment that surrounds. First of all can you tell us a bit about where you live in Canada?
I live at the most easterly point of North America in Newfoundland and Labrador. I do take my inspiration from our environment. I trained and then worked as a marine biologist during my first career. This has given me a profound respect for the world around me, especially our oceans. There is a wealth of beauty there, whether it be microscopic or macroscopic.
The Cove Photo courtesy of Terry Nicholls
How did you begin your artistic career? Was mosaic art making where you started? If not, what sparked your interest in this medium?
I have painted for as long as I can remember. The arts however didn't become my chosen profession. More on that later. My first encounters with mosaics were photos of Roman mosaics made with just a few colours of stone. As a child I was fascinated by them, both the depictions of everyday life and the geometric designs. I eventually decided that I wasn't a very good painter so I challenged myself to do a mosaic. I purchased some floor tile, some nippers, a tile cutter and adhesive and then learned by the school of hard knocks what not to do. I needed to do some research on mosaics in order to keep my fingers attached to my hand, and this is what got me totally smitten on the medium.
How has your location influenced your artwork practice? What are some of the challenges you face as an artist’s living in, what some would consider to be an isolated location.
I am lucky to be able to see the ocean every day. That influences me significantly. I live in the wettest, snowiest, windiest and foggiest city in Canada. Many people have told me about the coldness that I portray in much of my work. No wonder.
As far as the business of mosaics is concerned, I am definitely isolated from the community. In a province that is 1.6x the size of the United Kingdom, there is not a single glass shop or mosaic supply company. Aside from my spouse Connie, who occasionally mosaics, there are no mosaicists here. I order most of my supplies online and hope for the best, especially when it comes to stained glass. Smalti is more predictable thank goodness. I have to keep a rather good inventory, since I can't go out to a shop and pick something up. Shipping time to here is problematic, since I live on an island.
Participation in exhibits outside my province and/or country involves high shipping costs, especially to galleries that require a return label to be included. I have to factor that into what I ask for a piece.
I have learned to use and take advantage of local materials so I have developed a fondness for pebbles. We have lots of those and it is very refreshing to take a day and go collect some. I try to pick a rare nice day. Since I live on an island which we affectionately call 'The Rock', using some of this material reflects our environment quite well.
Taking a mosaic workshop or attending a mosaic event involves travelling a very long distance. There is a certain amount of preplanning that has to go into that.
Being the only working mosaic artist for perhaps thousands of miles, invariably my work is the only mosaic work that people see here, (aside from the cheap, assembly line work that comes from elsewhere). I find that first and foremost, I have to educate people about what mosaics are all about, especially more contemporary work. They have never been exposed to this medium and don't know what to make of it. I must admit that I do like doing the education part. I conduct demonstrations in public venues specifically [with] this goal in mind.
The Wind Come Up Photo courtesy of Terry Nicholls
Have you any advice for our readers facing similar challenges?
Take advantage of the resources of the internet. I rely on the internet to meet artists. I am thankful that the mosaic community is such a group of sharing and caring people. I have learned much of what I know from them and most people are more than willing to answer your questions or address your concerns. There is a wealth of information available and when it is not, someone, somewhere is still able to answer your question if you are not shy to ask. If you are isolated, take advantage of this way of communicating. It is also a wonderful way to see mosaic art and to study the materials and techniques that other people employ.
The internet is also mostly how I share my art with others. It is a great tool to help have your work exposed to the world. There are many ways that you can easily set up a website for your work, and there are also websites where mosaicists gather. It is wonderful to have other artists ( and non-artists) see what you do and you can learn from that experience.
Online, I have met other artists who have never met another mosaicist. They work in isolation as well, yet we have that common bond. I treasure them dearly.
The Arches Photo courtesy of Terry Nichols
Are there any artist(s) or life events that you would like to mention as past (or present) influences?
Probably the most influential artist that I have encountered is Canadian painter Lawren Harris. His work speaks to me and it remarkably reflects the country in which I live. His use of simple lines and light is so extremely expressive.
What about the process of mosaic-making captures you and continues to hold your attention?
I think that the most fascinating thing that I find in mosaic making is choosing what materials to use. There are so many. I really like to mix glass and stone. I also like to mix stained glass with smalti. It may be unconventional to do this, but it seems to work for me. I also enjoy the challenge of doing blends of colour. I have conversed with mosaicists who use a 'formula' to achieve this, but that isn't for me. I like to go with the feeling of what seems right. I use the stand back and squint my eyes method very frequently.
Can you tell us a bit about Terramosaic?
Terramosaic is the name of the website that both my partner in life (Connie Hilchie) and I established to expose our work to a wider audience. It is not a mosaic company per se.
The name was chosen perhaps 15 years ago. Seemed like a good idea at the time. Back then I had aspirations of doing other mosaic work such as installations ( architectural, backsplashes, showers, tub surrounds etc.). That desire changed over the years so I could focus on doing art mosaics. That is the niche which finally called to me.
We have kept the Terramosaic site name because it is convenient and provides a link to our appreciation of the earth and environment.
Connie works with a variety of media – knit goods, hooked rugs, quilting, sewing and of course some mosaics.
Stargazer Photo courtesy of Terry Nicholls
What is the focus of your current work?
My current work has definitely been focused on where I live, what I see, and the beauty that surrounds me here. It is not always done in a realist fashion, but more an interpretation. I have been enjoying working with very small pieces of glass and smalti, and incorporating those with stone and pebbles. It is time consuming to work with small pieces, but it is very satisfying. I am trying to give people a glimpse of 'here'.
Do you have any upcoming exhibitions?
Nothing planned at the moment. I am currently in a couple of exhibits in St. John's NL and in Ashland, OR. I have been involved in perhaps 4 or 5 exhibits annually ( usually local) and would like that trend to continue. My work is shown in several galleries in Newfoundland, and that keeps me pretty busy.
Galleries which are currently featuring my work include:
Devon House Gallery, St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. http://www.craftcouncil.nl.ca/
Five Island Gallery, Tor's Cove, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. http://www.fiveisland.ca/
Glass Artisans Studio and Gallery, North Shore, Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, Canada. http://www.glassartisans.ca/
Website: http://www.terramosaic.com/nichollsRead More
Friday, 6 October 2017 16:29:42 Europe/London
Ed Chapman: Fragmented Reality
Picasso (stone tile) ... Photo courtesy of Ed Chapman Lemmy with his portrait ... Photo courtesy of Ed Chapman
In his artwork, through focused intent and the careful placement of selected mosaic materials, Ed Chapman creates a fragmented reality that draws the viewer in and invites inspection.
“I try to make mosaics, usually portraits, which are an accurate likeness first and then a nice surprise to the viewer to discover the picture is made from fragments of something ordinary, interesting sometimes, or dare I say basic and dull sometimes.”
Clint as Dirty Harry … Photo courtesy of Ed Chapman
Most often there’s something special in store for those who linger to take a closer look. The artist’s dark sense of humour permeates this portrait of Clint Eastwood as Dirty Harry. The image has been created by mosaicking literally thousands and thousands of used bullet casements.
Clint as Dirty Harry … cases detail … Photo courtesy of Ed Chapman
Eclectic in his interests Chapman’s subject matter is diverse and also includes functional objects. Once again the artist’s dry humour surfaces in the titling of this stars and stripes coffee table, Easy Rider.
Easy Rider (ceramic mosaic table) Photo courtesy of Ed Chapman
Recently, via e-mail correspondence, Mr. Chapman answered a few questions about his history and art practice for Hobby Island Mosaic blog readers:
I understand your parents were artists. Could you tell me a bit about your early years and what influenced you to become an artist?
My parents met at Liverpool College of Art in the early 1960s. My mother who was 18 months older started there earlier and readers may be interested to learn John Lennon and 'Fifth Beatle' Stu Sutcliffe were her classmates and later flatmates. My mother was top of painting classes and my father in sculpture. My mother sold for the same as L.S. Lowry in the early 1970s and my father went on to teach art and sculpt in his spare time. When my siblings and I were growing up it was a very creative home with the art materials always on hand for a start. There was a sort of standard of art ability you had to live up to, the whole family is quite creative, like a lot of families I imagine. We even had a family newspaper which ran for about a month, I was the Picture Editor, at the age of six!
I have read that Chuck Close was one of your early influences. What in particular captured your interest in Mr. Close’s extensive body of work? Were there any specific artworks of Mr. Close’s that has influenced your choices in your own art practice?
I think his work is really clever, to make such accurate portraits from sort of hieroglyphic shapes. I know he had created huge portraits earlier too, these are incredible, but it was the more recent stuff I liked especially. His self-portraits with glasses appealed.
Is there any other artist(s) or life events that you would like to mention as a past (or present) influences?
Various artists for varying reasons … Vincent van Gogh for his originality, look at his work and it stands apart, he surpassed the Impressionists in my opinion as I think one of them said. Painting Dr Gachet one day and Crows in a Wheatfield the next, unbelievable. There will probably never be such an artist ever again, to create so many works in the last 100 days of his or her life. Were it not for his sister-in-law we may never even have heard of him! Vik Muniz from Brazil has been at the forefront of collages for years and shown what is possible with that medium. I admire Muniz in the same way I admire Dali for his skill and his ideas. If I don't have the ideas I hope I have some of their skill. I admire Banksy, known him from way back, for similar reasons, ideas are fantastic and the art is too. I admire other artists in the world of music especially too for their life-long search for creating something new. Bob Dylan comes to mind, Leonard Cohen, too. People like Lennon and Richard Burton are also fascinating and inspire me. Paul Weller and even Madonna are inspirational in different ways.
Lennon in Vinyl … Photo courtesy of Ed Chapman
How did you begin your work with mosaic art making?
I was asked to create a portrait using torn pieces of paper for an art assignment. I did a picture of James Dean and I was quite pleased with the results. I certainly loved the medium. I liked the way fragments could create an accurate representation of the subject. If you are immediately OK or good at something you're bound to continue at it. I went on and made loads of paper mosaics of icons, which was not a done thing at the time in the art world in the UK certainly. For the next six years I did nothing much more than create dozens of portraits in paper and got better tat them. After six years I nervously tried my hand at ceramic mosaics. The first one - of Che Guevara - was pretty good and the process began again this time with ceramic not paper.
Church at Auvers (Vincent Van Gogh), torn paper mosaic … Photo courtesy of Ed Chapman
Marilyn Munroe (ceramic) Photo courtesy of Ed Chapman
What about the process of mosaic-making captures you and continues to hold your attention?
The challenge of doing a unique portrait and one that has never been seen before in the history of art. The pieces of ceramic tile coming together I find very exciting, like creating a unique jigsaw. I need to get out more! I will soon be doing new things with ceramic, not seen before. Making Jimi Hendrix in 5000 guitar picks was a first in art which means a lot to me. I am always looking for new materials to use to create a portrait.
Mrs. Thatcher (in coloured penny coins) Photos courtesy of Ed Chapman
Can you share a bit about your current work and upcoming exhibitions?
I have a show on in London in November which is the first exhibition of all new work for ten years. I have just completed a mosaic for the chef Gordon Ramsey's Foundation which sold for £13000. It was a portrait of Mrs. Thatcher in coloured penny coins. I am working on a Pink Floyd album cover in vinyl records and have just finished a portrait of one of the world's greatest ever actors commissioned by his widow, a real honour., this will be unveiled later this year.
Friday, 6 October 2017 16:20:48 Europe/London
The mosaic art form lends itself well to public art projects. This is especially true when the project involves young artists. There are numerous ways for a variety of age-groups and skill-levels to get involved when a mosaic is being planned and installed.
This group of 22 youth took on an 80 foot wall in August of 2012 and in three weeks created a mosaic mural depicting stories from the area. The piece is aptly titled “Shore Stories” and depicts just that; visual snapshots of the stories, flora, fauna, activities, history and folks that define the Toronto shoreline. People exiting the ferry at the Jack Layton Ferry terminal on Toronto’s waterfront (located in Ontario, Canada) are given the opportunity to connect with the locale by glimpsing story fragments as they pass by a visual feast created by this collection of young artists with big ideas.
Mentored by Toronto mosaic and tile artist, Christina Delago, the group began the work by first mapping out ideas in chalk along the wall before the mosaic work began. In the artist statement on her website Delago says:
“I believe we are all connected, and my goal as an artist has always been to explore that connectedness”.
What unfolded on the Toronto waterfront perfectly illustrate these ideas she holds so dear.
As the weeks progressed many others joined in to support the young artists, cutting tiles and filling in the areas around the detailed circular vignettes that tell the shore stories. Seasoned artists worked shoulder to shoulder with these young emerging creatives. Community members, inspired by what they saw evolving, left notes in a comment book hanging on a chained link fence close by. Some even returned, dressed for work, and joined the effort to complete the mural.
For the youth involved in this project the benefits were many. Nothing is more satisfying than seeing a project through from the idea stage to being a completed reality! They were able to experience what it might be like to embrace a career in the arts. They added to their personal artistic skillsets and learned about the ups and downs of working on collaborative projects. Each made a positive contribution to their community and felt the pride of a job well-done.
Screen captures from Pebble Mosaic Visual Diary video - published on YouTube July 21, 2009
Pebble Mosaic Project
Another public art installation with a much younger group of artists was chronicled in this documentary video produced by The Big Art People. Eight years ago, children from Southfields Primary School in Coventry worked together to create a series of pebble mosaics that decorated a small amphitheatre on the school grounds. By pressing small pebbles into sand or mortar the children participated in creating a meaningful space for themselves and their school. From sorting pebbles into coloured groupings to the creation of the images themselves; there was a job for everyone involved from the youngest to the eldest.Read More
Friday, 6 October 2017 16:16:54 Europe/London
Canadian artist Lilian Broca is a professional visual artist with a long history of successful exhibitions. For over thirty years she has been exploring issues around identity and equality within contemporary society. Her glass mosaics from the past two decades create vibrant images of characters taken from fairy tales, legends and myths.
Recently she has designed some scarves that feature selected images from her portfolio of mosaic artworks. Why? She’s taking the only action she can to empower herself in a situation that is becoming all too common for visual artists. This action is Broca’s way of reclaiming stolen property.
Artists are Vulnerable
A quick Google search reveals a multitude of websites and social media platforms hosting images of Lilian Broca’s mosaics, including her own artist website. In days gone by, like many artists, Broca did not realize how easy it is for image thieves to literally steal low resolution images from a website and to then create higher resolution versions for fraudulent purposes. Sadly this technology exists today leaving all artists vulnerable.
For almost ten years, Broca has been finding versions of her mosaic images, all unauthorized, on various products; some online and some in fancy, high-end boutique clothing shops. In the following interview Broca talks about this disturbing experience:
While an artist might be protected by copyright legislation in their own country the issue of global piracy is almost impossible to deal with legally. The expense would be beyond the means of most individuals and the outcome would likely not be worth the effort and the dollars spent.
So, after almost 10 years since she first became aware of the theft of her images, Broca is doing the only thing she can. She is using her own work to design a limited edition of scarves. In an article, written by Marsha Lederman for Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper, Lilian Broca says,
“… if Cartier cannot stop people from reproducing their luxury items, how can an artist do it?”
Clearly Broca understands she will never be able to get back what has already been stolen, however the end result of this design project will be entirely within her control. This time she will have the final say about when and where her wearable art hits the market.
The scarves will be made available for sale in the Gallery shops where Lilian Broca will be opening her next solo exhibition, Heroine of a Thousand Pieces: The Judith Mosaics. The venues include: Il Museo of the Italian Cultural Centre in Vancouver, Nov. 12, 2015 and Joseph D. Carrier Art Gallery at the Columbus Centre in Toronto in May, 2016.
To see examples of Broca’s brilliant mosaic work view her website or check out this review of her book entitled The Hidden and the Revealed: The Queen Esther Mosaics of Lilian Broca, 2011 on the Mosaic Art Source magazine website.
Friday, 6 October 2017 16:15:55 Europe/London
Mosaic construction lends itself well to the labour of love that is created over time. The mosaic murals and structures of two men, Isaiah Zagar and Raymond Isadore remind us all that art can exist in what seems mundane. Each man, in his own way, shows us that an internal reality can be actualized externally through creative activity that spans a period of many years. In the case of Raymond Isadore the passage of time included three whole decades.
Raymond Isadore; La Maison Picassiette
Now designated a National Historic Monument of France, the home of graveyard sweeper, Raymond Isadore is completely covered by his own original mosaic designs. He took inspiration from bits of broken pottery he found on daily walks and began to decorate the surfaces of the home he constructed for his family in 1930. As Isadore’s work progressed he made regular trips to the local garbage dump looking for broken plates and crockery to use in his mosaics. This garnered him the nickname “Picassiette” which loosely translated means plate thief.
Eventually he completely decorated the interior of his small home with mosaic designs including: chairs, tables, window sills and frames … and even objects of daily use like his wife’s sewing machine! He then moved on to the exterior of the home and finally he created a walled garden space with paths, seating, wall murals, decorated flower pots, planters and urns.
His artistic labours spanned a period of almost 30 years. The subject matter in this very personal labour of love is varied and includes tributes to the works of art that Isadore found inspiring such as the Mona Lisa and the architectural wonders of the Eiffel Tower. With his mosaic work, Isadore created a home environment that was ordered and at the same time incredibly beautiful.
Raymond Isadore would live for only two more years after the final mosaic piece was cemented into Maison La Picassiette. He died in 1964.
Isaiah Zagar and his Magical Garden
It would be impossible to visit the South Street neighbourhood in Philadelphia and not encounter public artwork created by Isaiah Zagar. Born in Philadelphia Zagar spent the early part of his life in Brooklyn, New York. Eventually, after graduating from the renowned Pratt Institute of Art in New York, he would make his way back to Philadelphia where he still lives today and continues to create large scale artworks.
An encounter with the sculptural installations of Clarence Schmidt, an untrained “outsider” artist, would profoundly influence the direction of his own work. A visit to one of Zagar’s most acclaimed public artworks, Magic Garden, unapologetically confirms what he alludes to in his artist statement. In all of his work Zagar aspires to create what he calls “a total encyclopedic vision that has no parameters and no end.” It is precisely this element in the work of the outsider Schmidt that hit Zagar like a ton of bricks. It has propelled him through many years of a successful career that is still ongoing.
Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens was created by Zagar over a period of fourteen years. The walled installation which is completely covered with mosaic design includes interior spaces connected by staircases and hallways as well as an exterior sculptural garden. Everything is covered in mixture of materials; carefully crafted hand-made tiles, found objects, shards of glass and repurposed commercial tiles and mirrors.
It is indeed a stream-of-consciousness extravaganza that explores the internal universe and external reality of the artist himself. The structures, bits of poetic text, recorded names of inspirational artists and dream-like imagery of animals and people that make up this installation artwork dare the visitor/participant to examine and respect their own dreams and hidden desires.
Friday, 6 October 2017 16:10:05 Europe/London
The Industrial Revolution and its effect on every facet of life across Europe were profound. During the late 19th century and early 20th century the city of Barcelona, in Spain, was undergoing an intense period of industrialization as was the case for most urban centres throughout Europe. In reaction to this industrialization there occurred a simultaneous cultural revival of the Catalan influence. In North-eastern Spain, where Barcelona is located, a group of young architects who would eventually become known as the Catalan Modernistes was heavily influenced by both of these influences.
Industrialization meant there was an influx of money into the city economy and with this new flow of available cash came the ability to commission new buildings. It was a moment in time when the explosion of new thinking and new money came together to support large scale architectural endeavors.
A trip to present day Barcelona will reveal the striking effect the modernistes had on the urban landscape of this quickly developing city at the turn of the last century.
It would be impossible to talk about mosaic in modern architecture without discussing the great architect from Spain, Antoni Gaudi. During his lifetime, 1852 -1926, Gaudi’s work would transform the way architects think about building materials and use of mosaic surface design. He became an influential leader of the architectural movement known as Catalan Modernism. Gaudi forged techniques that saw traditional mosaic patterning combined with discarded ceramic shards known as trencandis.
Photo courtesy of Montrealais via Wikimediacommons.org
He is famous for completely covering sculpture and architectural features such as columns and staircases with broken bits of pottery, plates and assorted dinnerware. This dragon sculpture from Parc Guell in Barcelona is a brilliant example of Gaudi’s unconventional and visionary use of repurposed materials and the trencandis mosaic technique.
Photo courtesy of Baikonur via Wikimediacommons.org
Joseph Maria Jujol
Of course we can’t look at Parc Guell and Gaudi’s work there without also looking at the work of his colleague and co-worker Joseph Maria Jujol. Born in 1879, Jujol eventually made his way to Barcelona where he trained as an architect, graduating from his programme in 1906. By that time he had already met and begun to work under the tutelage of the already renowned, Gaudi. The long and successful series of collaborations with the senior architect would continue right up until Gaudi died in 1927.
While Gaudi was heavily influenced by his catholic faith and the church, Jujol’s work had a lighter touch, often imbued with subtle humour. Many believe the fanciful mosaicked sculpture found in Parc Gruell, such as the dragon pictured above, are the result of Jujol’s influence on Gaudi. Jujol’s work on the area of Parc Gruell known as the bench, shows his command of colour and a developed sense of fanciful whimsy which delights visitors to this day.
Photo courtesy of Deror avi via Wikimediacommons.orgRead More