Contemporary Mosaics
by Ora AVNI
About Mosaics

What is it all about?

Classical mosaics were reserved primarily for floor and walls, as a more durable alternative to fresco. They were therefore usually flat, (the surface might even be ground to ensure its smoothness) and highly decorative.

Mosaics are still popular as a form of home decor, but today they also offer an alternative art form to painting or sculpture, meant as a portable object - either hanging on a wall or stand-alone -- free of the incidental constrains of function.

Whether they are figurative or abstract does not define their modernity. What defines contemporary mosaics it is that they are no longer just "painting with stone." In addition to the composition and the motif, their interest and success hinge on the choice and the cuts of the materials, the andamento, and often on a heavily textured or 3-D effect.

Contemporary artist also introduce materials not found in classical mosaics, so that the boundary between mosaics and mixed media becomes blurred. Fabric, metal, various hardware, shells and minerals all find their way in modern mosaics. Even the adhesive, normally hidden under the tesserae, shows -- either as extended negative space or as visible and highly sculpted background.

Light is an important component of modern mosaics. In fact, it should be listed as a "material." Reflective, iridized, or dichroic glass can be played against the dullness of stone. As the viewers move about the mosaic, the light creates ever-changing effects. This is also why mosaics are best shown in indirect lighting, rather than under a spot light like paintings. (Unfortunately, these effects do not show in digital pictures).

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