The Spontaneous Mosaic
|At first glance the terms mosaic art and spontaneity
seem to present a contradiction. Mosaic is a time-consuming art form. It
involves assembling thousands of ready-made pieces that are carefully selected
from an enormous pool of source material. A great deal of time is spent
searching for that unique piece that miraculously fits a certain space in
the evolving artwork.
The mosaic artist's true work is to rummage around a vast sea of existing choices and find this one-of-a-kind piece that has unique properties and then to determine how this piece fits in a certain spot on the mosaic's surface. It is a search for something the artist knows only in abstract terms until he or she finds that "right" piece and incorporates it into the mosaic. The addition of that found piece instantly changes the entire mosaic. It lends the mosaic new meaning and artistic expression that was not there the moment before.
Unlike painters who mix colors to achieve the right shade, or unlike ceramic artists who imprint patterns onto the wet clay, mosaic artists do not change the aesthetic traits their materials posses. Instead, they engaged in a tedious search for the "right" pieces that inherently hold the desirable qualities of color, shape, and texture. It must seem to the uninitiated that the above-described process is far from spontaneous.
Yet, searching, is a curious activity. When we search for something, we assume the task in either of the following approaches. Either we start by having a clear mental image of the item we look for, or we pursue the task with only a vague idea regarding the specific attributes the thing we wish to find possesses. Finding a lost key, for example, requires us to match our mental image of the key with an actual key that has been misplaced in some logical proximity to our whereabouts. However, when we do not have a clear mental picture of the thing we search for, we embark on a fascinating and intuitive journey. This journey brings forth unexpected opportunities, accidental encounters and unpredictable findings. This intuitive search is the very essence of the spontaneous mosaic.
Spontaneity means making impromptu decisions that are based on inspiration in a given moment that may never come about again. The spontaneous approach to mosaic making involves moment-to moment assessments of what would make a "right" piece. The "right" piece is not a preconceived or pre-visualized aspect of the mosaic. Rather it is the result of a decision that is made at the spur of a moment during the creative process of searching. It leads to unexpected and surprising results.
In the spontaneous mosaic, the artist does not "translate" a painting into the medium of mosaic. Instead, he or she "thinks" in mosaics and uses the distinctive language of this unique medium to create fresh artistic expression. In this way the artist paints with stones and composes with the shapes and lines that are inherent in the found materials.
Over the years I have cultivated this approach and I have become a great advocate for it. I usually start with one interesting piece that attracts me and says something to me. This initial piece serves as a key element that will further dictate the development of the entire work.
In order to allow the spontaneous process to take place, I set the mosaic pieces on boards and I move them around until I am pleased with the outcome. I do not glue the pieces to the board until I am completely sure that I have achieved a good result. This initial stage is done with no attention to details. The objective at this exploratory stage is to draw the vital lines that define the basic composition. Each piece that is laid out during this stage influences the development of the entire mosaic. Similarly, the removal of a single piece can critically affect the mosaic and throw it completely off- balance.
Only after the basic composition has been determined do I permanently fasten the key pieces onto the boards. All the succeeding pieces are details that evolve through an endless succession of artistic decisions, which I make later. I work simultaneously on different sections of the mosaic, leaving open ends for a later stage. This allows for fine- tuning and careful balancing of the composition.
My mosaics are a collage that contain many different materials: handmade ceramic pieces, ceramic tiles that I glaze and fire by myself, glass fragments and glass tesserae, natural stones of all kinds and shapes, cut stone tesserae, etc. Also, I use corals, seashells, and objets trouves. I derive incredible inspiration from "rejected" ceramic pieces that may have accidentally broken or cracked during the firing process or ones that may have colors that have "not turned out well". This vast assortment of materials provides an endless array of aesthetic possibilities. The mosaics reflect light in a dynamic manner because they are made out of elements that are of various heights. The uneven surface of low and high relief creates a vibrant effect.
Spontaneous mosaic is a creative and dynamic dialogue between two compelling thought processes. One is carefully composed and calculated contemplation. The other is intuitive and unprompted expression. This dialogue is a rewarding and fascinating creative experience.