The average art-lover will find little guidance in this country for appreciating mosaic artwork as a distinct art form. It can be difficult to understand, or to even figure out the best way to view it. I’m writing this in response to the many questions from visitors to our gallery, and in other venues. Here are a few of my recommendations:
1. Stand back. This refers to wall mosaics, but holds true for other forms (floor, sculptural). The mosaic composition is “shattered” via the groutlines, and standing back at least 6′ from the piece allows your eye to reassemble the pieces and appreciate the flow of the pieces– also known as andamento. Afterward, step closer and inspect the craftsmanship and texture in your favorite work.
2. Those groutlines (or interstices) are just as critical to the overall artwork as the more noticeable “tesserae” (the pieces of glass, ceramic or stone). Groutlines guide the viewer, such as along the contours of a voluptuous curve or a background described by repetitive rhythm or geometry. The varied width of groutlines may provide hints of distance, or mark a change from one texture to another. Take the time to appreciate what the interstices are contributing to the overall piece.
3. Much like pointillism, mosaic art creates an impression of color with individual fragments that are mixed by the viewer’s eye. See what happens when you stand back, then squint until the image is slightly blurred. What colors do you see now? What major areas of value (light/dark) separate? If you are creating a mosaic, take digital photos along the way and view it in the small screen to see what is working… or not.
4. Ask questions about fabrication if possible. Mosaic art is made with a wide range of materials and dozens of different methods. Some are ancient traditions and use original tools like the hammer and hardie, and some have modern adaptations. What can you learn about the time and technique required to create that particular artwork?
What favorite mosaics have you seen, and why did they matter to you? I would love to hear from other artists and those who love mosaic art, to learn your special tips for appreciating this unique medium.