The annual day out for British Mosaic Art last weekend, held at the exquisite V&A in London proved to be a veritable feast for the mosaic artists soul.
I am sure the British Association for Modern Mosaics (BAMM) who organises the annual gathering will add detailed info on each talk to their website. I’ve been picking the meat off the bones of the talks and savouring it all week – letting the ideas and learning settle. There is so much that I could report from the day but I will choose my two most juicy bits…
I totally loved the talks by Ilona Jesnick and Lillian Sizemore on the work / philosophy/ spirituality of 20th century artist, Gino Sevrini. There was so much in these two talks for the soulful mosaic artist. It unwrapped the deeper processes that we engage in as artist who use stone and tile as our medium – the mystical connection between the artist and their material and how this informs and leads the art making process (something I tell my students all the time – don’t try to map it all out but let the materials lead you…).
“Be open to the mystical moment when the stones take on life”.
Lillian and Ilona presented how Gino Sevrini urged a unity between instinctual and technical aspects of art making, not separating artistic vision from workmanship or the contemplative mind from the rational mind – instead finding the power of the creative flow that comes when you keep both in tension together.
Oh yes… spirit and matter held together in the mosaic making process. Mosaics themselves holding together spirit and matter. That which we can’t see made solid in that which is utterly solid and tangible. That is what it has always been about for me (read some of it here). Lillian has now posted the lecture online here.
The day ended with an almighty pep talk by the Nancie Mills Pipgras, editor of Mosaic Art Now , the most comprehensive resource and inspiration pit stop for contemporary mosaic art on the net.
She presented some deeply thought through examples of modern mosaics.
The abstract conceptual work of CaCO3 which, when entered into, revealed such simple, pure, sharp meaning.
The work of Jeroen Meijer as an illustration of symbolism and powerful storytelling through mosaics
And the work of Mohamed Banawy, Egyptian artist, revealing the deep connection of artist to place and politics and the almost visceral use of clay – the earth itself – as the medium for mosaic art.
Nancy picked up on an earlier debate about the Tate Modern still refusing to allow mosaics in (not contemporary or arty enough apparently) and ended by urging us…
…to do the work (chiming with Gino Sevrini’s description of the art making process as “il fare” -” the doing“, and hearing my mum’s voice urging me as a child to “datti da fare!”…”get on with it!“. Oh so many connections…)
…to not give our power to institutions such as the Tate Modern (loved David Toothill’s from Southbank Mosaics contribution to this : “If they won’t let us in we will just mosaic the streets around them!”, totally chiming with Gino Sevrini’s view of art as a communal and public process)
…to get out of mosaic ghettos, go into the big wide world with our beloved art form, to flow with art in its widest sense and stand shoulder to shoulder with other art disciplines.
“Make art not mosaics” urged Nancy.
I came away with a motivation to push further into my art making – to the depths and edges of it – to be fully what it is for me to be and do what it is for me to do, to set my own agenda and not allow institutions or persons to define me and my creative path that only I can walk. Thank you my dear mosaic colleagues for reminding me that I do not belong to the ‘poor cousins’ of the art world but to a vital movement that can stand proudly with other art forms, shoulder to shoulder, not on bended knee, with the offerings of our hands and hearts.
Yes, I have come out of this week with a stronger sense of ‘me’ in my art journey, but at the same time a strong sense of beloved connection to something much bigger than me. That as I make mosaics, I am part of a bigger story , a very old story, that uses stone, clay and sand - the very earth - to translate human feelings and experiences into something solid and tangible.