The Everchanging World of Mosaic Artwork — Past, Present, And Future
(4 min read) One of the inexhaustible modern sources of questionable knowledge, the Wikipedia, says: “A mosaic is a piece of art made from assembling of small pieces of colored glass, stone or other materials.”. For once, Wikipedia is right, especially about the “other materials” bit.
Most of us witnessed art forms going through some major changes from time to time, and in recent years controversy seems to be the main fuel of modern art. That isn’t necessarily bad, but it seems that the universal statement of beauty is getting lost in the process. Art forms such as fumage and scratchboard are very interesting, and art pieces created with these respective techniques can be gorgeous and breathtaking, but are they necessarily a progress? From painting with colors made of dried herbs and lapis lazuli, to painting with smoke, has the art world gone full circle and came back to its primitive beginnings?
In all of this commotion of new approaches and equivocal methods, one thing remains solid — mosaics are still made of small pieces of various materials. One might ask how do mosaics manage to stay relevant, and not become boring and outdated with their never-changing techniques. The answer to that question is quite simple — the materials change.
It all started back in bronze age with some simple, but lovely, pebble mosaics in Tiryns, the legendary place from which powerful Heracles performed his twelve labors. Greeks then started using pebble mosaics more and more often, which lead to the invention of the famous tessera technique.
Sharp lines of regular shapes of tessera, as well as their density and color, implicate that the Greeks were trying to imitate the contemporary paintings. Marble, limestone and deep black basalt, were later accompanied by marvelous glass threads, including the gold and silver glass tesserae. All of these materials still play a major role in the creation of mosaic artwork today, but in the meantime, some other techniques and materials were born as well.
Contemporary artists don’t lack mosaic ideas, and they most certainly don’t lack materials either. From Elvis made of beer and soda aluminum cans to the portrait of Rosie O’Donnel made of junk food, modern artists are pushing the boundaries of custom mosaic designs every day. The thought process that leads to making some of these gorgeous mosaic art pieces is truly mind-boggling for most people, but some are fairly obvious. Kevin Bacon made of bacon is one of the great examples of the latter, as well as Darth Vader made of recycled electronic waste. Buttons, pushpins, coins, corks, for crying out loud even delicious cupcakes — everything can be art if you are skillful and talented enough to make it.
So, what does the future bring for the formidable mosaic art and for that matter, art in general? One should only visit the Metropolitan Museum these days to figure out that modern art isn’t very promising. Strange performances, twisted expositions, the beauty seems to be lost for many art forms. In such a world, mosaic remains steadily and intricately beautiful. Whether it’s made of butterfly wings or candy sprinkles, a mosaic artwork will never fail to bring out the admiration in its observers.
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Originally published at www.mosaicslab.com on February 5, 2019.