The ‘1st International Urban Mosaic Intervention’ was a collaboration devised by Chilean mosaic artist and art director, Isidora Paz Lopez, working in partnership with and funded by The Municipal of Puente Alto, Santiago. All aided by London mosaic art activist Carrie Reichardt, winning the Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowship which encourages travel overseas,(to create mosaic art and) to bring back knowledge and best practice for the benefit of others in their UK professions and communities.
The project was designed to unite over 80 international and 20 Chilean mosaic artists to collaborate from concept to construction with the aim to transform the appearance of the facade of the Municipal building in Puente Alto. The theme flora and fauna, 'Magic Garden'.
My initial response to this theme came from finding common links between South Wales, my home, and Chile. An industrial heritage shared by both countries this formed a visual familiarity of environment and landscape of industry and nature living side by side. I could connect to this vision which enable a narrative to unfold. I wanted to portray a story of gratitude and respect with a sense of understanding and compassion. While industrial links inspired my use of steel, copper and industrial objects into my design and characteristically a feature of my artwork, I also wanted to depicted a story.
I wanted to portray contemporary urban lifestyle with in the environment of the Magic Garden, while also creating a narrative that captured connectivity.
Language was a barrier at times, most of the time as my Spanish was non existent. So creating a visual story was at the heart of the project for me, if I could not speak Spanish my work would have to do the talking for me. This was understood by many which gave me much relief.
I was so very gracious to be invited to work in Chile and my gratitude for this was portrayed in the girls bow to the Chilean humming bird, she offers her head adorned in flowers for the bird to feed. Her expanded belly pregnant with creativity.
The background of the piece was inspired by the bus journey we took daily, an observation on the wooden structures that homes were build. Many were not perfect in appearance, which spoke about the deprived areas that surrounded the Municipal Building. I wanted to depict the topic of this subject matter, but also bring a sense of hope and freedom to the wooden structures. Who am I to say that these walls are 'deprived' or bring 'freedom' but through the patterning and andemento of their lines they appear to be light spirited and unrestricted. A reflection of the people I encountered.
“There is something quite transcendental as well as beautiful about this work. Very Creative, extremely thought provoking.” Brian Fellow, writer.
‘The project was an incredible opportunity for self expression and personal growth, balanced beautifully amongst the inspirations of different cultures, whilst being surrounded by an educational and informative experience. It was an insightful experience and journey. I feel privileged and honoured to have had, especially to have gained so many mosaic artist friends from across the world to work alongside, to continue to raise the profile of mosaic art'
Materials - photo taken just in case I needed to explain myself at customs.
The pre drawn image
I begin to intergrate my ideas into the design on the my concrete canvas, starting with metal, lead in this instance.
Explaining to residence my concept idea and the height variation I can gain by using metal in this method.
The linear aspects are complete with copper used for the hummingbird. I begin to fill in with gold and copper plumbers materials.
Humming bird in planning stage.
Body under construction and humming bird made from copper strips with copper and nails in a flower design to reflect the 'Magic Garden' theme.
Hummingbirds beak made of 24 k gold smalti, flower made of washers, nails and tiles.
Vanessa Montero, Chilean artist come to lend a very helpful hand. I was given the green tile by artist Lily Calderon who bought it from a local ceramic artist. Was lovely to use these tiles in the piece.
Aldea Serigrafía, Orlando, helps me out with linking my piece with my neighbour Susan Crocenzi.
4.45pm day 9. Work complete.
Made in Chile
Made in Italy, Mecho en Mexico
After arriving in Chile, my eyes could not widen enough to take in the new visuals that surrounded me. And the discovery on the Monday morning that my 1.5m2 concrete canvas had a pre drawn image was an interesting twist to the story. Our blank canvas was not quite so.
We all stared at 'the wall'and our number allocation 'No.55'. I was lost in my world, knowing this was my opportunity to showcase my work in front of some of the the world finest mosaic artists. I stared until the wall began to communicate.
I wanted to entice the viewer to engaging with the 3 elements on show. I moved a few elements of the original design but leased with Art Director, Isidor Paz Lopez first to tell her of my concept idea and to make sure I was working with her final vision for the collaboration. It was a collaborative piece, so this conversation was vital and a successful one. She said,' I trust you', so I began.
The process was very organic. Day by day I would plan the next stage, colour theories and options flying around my head. Colour, shape, form. It was important for me to keep the image simple and bold. Mosaics as an ability to be complicated because of their assemblage nature of manufacture, grout gaps can make images visually complicated. I wanted the piece to have a calm earthy colour palette as here was much intensity of colour an many other artists work.
One of the many challenges in this project was the fight over gravity. Not only was I out of my comfort zone using the direct method of construction, straight on the wall, but faced with the challenge of composing and planning. Who holds everything up while you stand back and take a squinted look? I got very good a balancing tiles, and asking my neighbours for assistance.
There was a masterclass in all directions, Stephanie Chatelet, Tamara Froud and Marie-Laure Bessen where my closest and dearest advisors. There was very little time to ponder and query decisions, you had to think spontaneously and trust your instincts. Face the unknown and embrace the challenge, engage with the cross section of skills and mosaic approaches that surrounded you. Everyone was there to help and assist, share and problem solve.
The background was demanding and challenging, it was complex and time consuming. The idea came from a direct reference to many of the wooden houses and fences I saw amongst the urban environment. The ground was always a little scruffy and littered, I liked its scruffiness and I enjoyed the wooden horizontal and diagonal lines that brought contrast to the organic shapes that surrounded them. The wood colour was perfect for my background and cross reference to the urban environment from my design. I used many tiles upside down, Isidora at this point wondering what on earth I was doing. I explained that the X X X was a good pattern and added to the unkept ground that sprawled the streets in some districts. Many tile had their country of manufacture on their reverse 'made in Italy, 'made in Mexico' these were references to the international collaboration that was this intervention. She had to agree.
The background was such an organic exploration of movement. There was a methodology to the pattern that was exploding out into the sky, almost turning to flight and breaking free of its own restrictions. I was pleased with the results, but it was hard work to create a flow of movement and pace with no ability to really plan the whole effect. The spontaneity was exciting and a little daunting at times.
The integration with our neighbours really began to take place on the last 2 days, although it was always in discussion, but now we had to join the works together. Not always an easy task as we all had our own ideas and visions. It took careful consideration and planning to work out the theory of the relationships between the artworks and create continuity of the piece as a whole. The days were long and the pressure was on. The last day took a toll on all of us, the finish was exhausting but incredibly rewarding. Thanks to the help from my collaborators I had finished in time. The wall was a hive of activity. As soon as one had finished they moved to another until the wall was finished and the celebrations could begin.
I returned 3 days later to grout my piece because of the complicated nature of my work, a choice I had arranged with Isidora. My 1st International mosaic collaboration was completed. I had had the time of my life.
‘The project was an incredible opportunity for self expression and personal growth, balanced beautifully amongst the inspirations of different cultures, whilst being surrounded by education and an informative experience. An insightful experience and journey. I feel privileged and honoured.”
Many residence commented on my work. My different techniques drew in attention 'I want to take it home, it is my friend', 'it is beautiful', 'magical', 'magnificent' and 'so unusual and different'.
Language was a barrier at times, but as many people explained that ‘Made in Chile’, spoke with out the need for words, people new what I thought by my work. I was happy to vivst a beautiful country and my respect was displayed in my work.
I would like to thank Nick Jones for his generosity in sharing copper. I adore his work and I'll be returning for more scraps from his workshop floor very soon. Thanks mate.