The birth of a mosaic
“Realizing a work of art for someone else is a great responsibility; you take on a duty which is also ethical. You must be able to do your best”.
Our craftsman Mohamed explains the creative process which is at the origin of a mosaic design, the artist’s responsibility in creating a work of art on commission and the freedom which enables the mosaic to be carried out.
The birth of a mosaic
Every mosaic has a history of its own, a history which is always different and is born of an idea, a proposal or a need. But first of all, it grows and develops in the mind of the artist. Therefore, how does the idea of a mosaic arise in you and how do you deal with the design challenge that derives from it?
At the beginning there is always a question, a suggestion or a consideration from which the idea of the work then arises. Even when I am working on commission, I give voice to things that have struck me in in the course of my life. These are usually things that I keep for myself – an idea, a river, a landscape, an impression – and cherish until the moment arrives for me to bring them out. Let’s take Spartiacque (Watershed), a contemporary mosaic realized for a Swiss client, as an example. The idea emerged from a couple of impressions I had in mind. One was drawn from Città invisibili (Invisible towns) by Italo Calvino, the other from a mountain in the Tarvisio area whose name is precisely Spartiacque. From these reflections, there arose a mosaic that represents the dimension of choice, namely all those choices, from minor to portentous, that we make in everyday life and which cause us to take one direction instead of another. In Spartiacque, in fact, there are these earth-coloured pins dividing the flow of the tesserae, just as choices do.
Does the creative process undergo any modification when the mosaic is not a personal project but one commissioned by a client?
Yes, it changes, but the challenge is always to be able to accomplish a work of art that meets the client’s requirements and, at the same time, possesses a worth and artistic dignity of its own. And it is in this context, according to me, that the fact of being an artisan supervenes, too.
Therefore, the creative element does not disappear, but rather enter into a dialogue with the other person.
Precisely, though this does not mean that I accept compromises, but instead that I put myself into play. In any case, I have some basic principles that I never betray and that preserve my artistic freedom, i.e. I will not use polluting substances, undertake industrial mosaics or copy the mosaics of others. Furthermore, I try to help the client not to content himself with less, working together to find solutions that are more original, less easy and not so obvious.
What is the genesis of a mosaic in its different phases?
First of all, there is the concept, the idea. And since I always conceive a work done on commission in consideration of the environment or the person who has commissioned it, it is always a phase of observation and dialogue. I observe the shapes, colours and style of the place; I observe the client, trying to penetrate his/her way of thinking, sensitivity, and needs. Continuing with the example of Spartiacque, the mosaic colours depict the two main environmental elements surrounding it: the green of the meadow and the blue of the structure. The mosaic is also the result of an extended dialogue with the customer and of continuous feedback on the work in progress.
To stimulate the client’s imagination, I create a sort of work preview, an example of how it will turn out.
In the case of Spartiacque I painted some watercolours in different shades, then created a photomontage, giving it a more vibrant effect, closer to that of the mosaic, and placed it in the environment where it would eventually be installed. Once the client has chosen what he/she prefers, I begin to prepare the support and the sample piece.
Choice of materials and realization
The choice of the materials and the support is also fundamental and is determined by many other variables. The evaluation must contemplate whether the mosaic will be situated on a wall or on a floor, inside or outside, whether it is three-dimensional and so on. Once I have chosen all the materials, I start to create my first sample piece. If the client agrees with my choice of colours, tesserae size and so on, I begin work on the mosaic itself. There are, then, the last finishing touches and the settling, which I like to do myself. Finally, together with the work, we give the customer an artistic and technical report on the mosaic.
Idea, technique and beauty
Therefore even a work done on commission preserves all the qualities of a work of art?
Yes, since everything depends on our creativity. Without it, we would be nothing more than mere technicians. The aspects that endow a work with artistic value and that I consider inalienable are 3: the idea, the technical ability involved and its aesthetic beauty.
(Interview by Laura Pizzini; translation by Elisabetta De Martin)