“Crust” – Exhibition of Mosaic Art with Marcelo de Melo

Last week I had an exhibition of mosaic art at Bath Artists Studio Gallery with Brazilian artist Marcelo de Melo.

I spent 6 days in the gallery studying the reactions of visitors and talking to them about the work.

I exhibited some older pieces such as Spirit of the Leaves and How the Sun Wakes to show my journey leading up to my newest pieces. The latest works tell stories of the apocalypse through the usual subject of bird and sun. I hoped that visitors would see my work as beautiful but haunting, stirring emotions and getting into the soul like a good piece of music might.

The feedback was really good, and it was this that finally helped me to see how my work should progress. Before I felt as if I had come to a full stop, because I have completed several years of successive ideas from my sketchbooks.

It was an interesting experiment having Marcelo’s “Corpo Musivo” works displayed side by side with mine.

In stark contrast Marcelo’s new pieces are crude, grotesque and creepy whilst at the same time strangely alluring and demanding further investigation. Like his first Corpo Musivo he has defaced the tile with latex and pubic hair and this time added plastic zip ties and tubing to make his peculiar strange shaped “mosaic bodies” that look a bit like diseased organs. Marcelo has had a love /hate relationship with what he believes is no longer “Contemporary” mosaic art and what he says about his first Corpo Musivo is also relevant to the two corpo’s in the show:This shapeless form is meant to shock, by desecrating techniques and materials precious to mosaic art.”

His disillusion with the art form is blatant and screams out in anger and frustration, but it is these feelings that fuel a passion to express it.

But however far apart our art may seem there was one common element that we appeared to share; a primal energy that whispers and echoes throughout my work and that comes through kicking and screaming in Marcelo’s work.

view of Crust exhibition with Marcelo de Melo’s work in foreground
Corpo Musivo III (mosaic body III)
by Marcelo de Melo
(ceramics, glass, latex, paint, permanent markers, plastic,
pubic hair, plaster and wire)
Corpo Musivo II (mosaic body II)
by Marcelo de Melo
(ceramics, glass, latex, plastic, paint, pubic hair,
plaster and wire)

Here is a video of the exhibition

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D4iyP_7Qlvs&w=420&h=315]

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  1. It looks amazing, Kate – I’m so sorry not to have made it – life got in the way, as I’m sure you’ll understand. Perhaps one of these days we could visit each others studios for a coffee..!

  2. A pleasure to view and read your contrasting visions! Marcelo’s gotten many years of “mileage” from his sense of being an outsider or under attack from the mosaic “establishment.” If that serves as a motivation, I say go with it! Of course, there are personal and regional differences, but I think that like the art world generally, mosaic artists have, on the whole, broadened their sense of boundaries. A couple of years ago, at the Austin Texas SAMA (Society of American Mosaic Artists) conference, a panel discussion about a mosaic definition was titled, “Defining Mosaic Fine Art – Who Cares & Why?” Thanks for staging the show, images and commentaries!

    1. Thanks, George, for your comments.
      Yes, I have made plenty of work before in order to get these out. I do not necessarily see myself as an outsider nor an insider for that matter, but yet we are tribal people and belonging can be healthy. As I said to Kate before, I have nothing new to say about/with mosaics to be honest and I chose to leave the mosaic associations because their fight in the art world is misplaced and many of these “fighters” became tyrants in their own right. They look at things from a twisted perspective and tend to ignore the heavy historical weight of mosaic art. There are exceptions, of course, but not enough. The truth is that “proper” contemporary mosaic art is not being done by mosaic artists. It really shows how the debate is elsewhere and not with the mosaic associations/groups and with the ‘facebookisation’ of the media even the most promising things get turned into cultural diarrhoea. There is still a huge lack of critical thinking within the associations and most participants are terribly narrow-minded. I am actually not screaming in fury or anything like that. I am quite calm and happy with the way things have worked out for me but with nearly 15 years producing, I can no longer make “simple” straight forward mosaics.

      1. Hi Marcelo, can you please define your idea of “proper” contemporary mosaic? Also I am surprised by your statement that you have nothing new to say about or with Mosaic. What medium do you now prefer?
        Cheers Jacqui

      2. Hi, Jacqui,
        Thanks for your comment.
        Well, anything produced now can be said to be contemporary as the artists are alive and producing. However, in the ‘art’ historical context [which differs from the purely historical context] most mosaic artists are working outside the debate. Mosaic practice can be seen as an anachronistic practice because it perpetuates values that do not necessarily subscribe to contemporary art values. If a mosaic carries social comments, subverts well established notions of beauty and craftsmanship or connects with issues related to new technologies then mosaics might be seen as contemporary art. If it is stuck in the past as it is now, there is no hope. Anyway, we are all entitled to our opinion and the more informed mosaic people get the better. See the works of Mat Collishaw [UK] and Adrian Paci [Albania] and note how they make good use of mosaics relating to contemporary art issues.
        As my practice goes, I am using whatever material I can find or afford in order to pass the time and keep myself busy. Ideally, I would stop making altogether but I can’t.

  3. Two new posts have been added since this one, if you click the title link of the blog “Kate Rattray’s Mosaic Blog” you will see how and why I made my latest pieces of work “The Beginning of the End” and that one you saw a little of on Mosaic Art Now – “Chorus at the Wake of the Sun”- The final piece in my book that is about to be published. Comments are always welcome!

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