Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Mosaics from the island of Corfu

picture from

Corfu, an island I have been to without knowing of its mosaics!

These mosaics from the basilica of Palaiopolis (means old town) were discovered during excavations carried out during the period 1930 - 1959. I have searched persistently but haven't been able to find out the period in which they were made except that they belong to the Byzantine period but that's vague as the Byzantine period runs from mid 4th century AD until mid 15th AD.

To my view they belong to the early Christian era.

random and old


I am going through an entirely new phase as far as design is concerned.
I am working on some new ideas and themes for a series of mosaics and this post is merely to share with you some old designs and drawings. Most of these were not developed into mosaics and their finalised appearance as mosaics is not clear at all (not even to me) but there are still things that I did.

Hope that wasn't a boring post...

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The land of Venus

The first picture, the famous Leda and the swan mosaic, now in the Cyprus museum in Nicosia (capital of the island), was found in the Leda mosaic house as it was later called, at the location of a sanctuary of Aphrodite in the area of Kouklia, which was the home to a cult of Aphrodite from at least 3800 BC and was mentioned in many ancient texts, including Homer's Iliad.

Counting after the Leda mosaic, most of the images are from picasa web except the first two; the first one being taken from a hotel website and the second from a blog (all images are linked to their source).

I can recognise Akamas in at least one of the images, a place which is like heaven on earth, pure and unspoiled where you can see, if you are lucky and trained enough, vulnerable species, some of which are endemic to Akamas.

The second picture shows the archeological area where the floor mosaics of Palea Paphos (meaning old Paphos) are located, mentioned previously on this blog here and here.

I trust that the picasa images are all from Paphos and not from other places in Cyprus too. I have been to Paphos a few times in the past but I can only recall the mosaic site and the little harbour. Nothing else. In the picasa files I have also found some pretty pictures from hotels that I have included here.


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The museum experience

It wasn't my intention to write today although I am gathering my thoughts on various subjects I would love to draw your attention to. The above picture from Thessaloniki was posted on this blog here. Notice the superb mosaic fragments on the floor and panels.

Thessaloniki in Greece holds a similar position for mosaic heritage just as Ravenna in Italy. I remember when I visited the Byzantine museum and when I used to search for every single mosaic to look at in Thessaloniki.

The museum or archealogical-site experience is naturally much more rewarding than browsing pictures on the internet or even books. Each experience is unique.

Pictures from the internet, you see them, you love them, you store them but they don't become "yours", you don't "bind" with them like with the books you went out and bought perhaps on a very hot and humid day.

The museum experience is what brings you even closer to the artwork and the context (historical and artistic) in which it was made. It's a living experience that I have been lucky to enjoy. Namely and randomly, Olynthos, Delos, Fishbourne, Bath, Ravenna, Torcello, Dafni-Athens, Florence, Naples, Pella, Acquileia, Spilimbergo, Rome, Palea Paphos-Cyprus, Kourion-Cyprus. The list is not complete because there are places of which I don't recall their names but these are the main sites that have left their mark on me. I still need to go to Constantinople (Istanbul) if I want my mosaic tour to be perfect.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Gaudi-style garden in Echo park

I admire people who know how to transform their "disasters" into beauty, those who start from zero, meaning basically dealing with what you have. From LA times today, here's an example. The artists used broken pottery, the result of an earthquake, triggered the idea of a Gaudi-style garden in Echo park, LA.

Here's a paragraph from today's LAT Times:
The 1994 Northridge earthquake dished out the idea for the projects as well as the material: pottery shards that the couple stored in boxes beside their home. Smashed works by such renown artists as Beatrice Wood and Andrea Gill proved difficult to toss.

"I even went around the house and broke a few things that weren't damaged," says Kibler, former head of Glendale Community College's ceramics department as well as past chairman of the visual and performing arts division. "I thought, break it now and it will last longer on the garden wall." 

pictures from LAT, article "smashing success"

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Look for treasures beyond appearances: Florence, The Baptistery



This just has to be very quick. I would like to post mosaics according to location so I decided to start with Florence which is not very far from where I live and because something made me recall these specific mosaics. A spectacular place that people enchanted with the town know and recognise for its exterior and for the gilded bronze doors.


If you are visiting Florence go to the Baptistery to see these mosaics and let them mesmerise you for a while. You will begin wondering how on earth where they made. Well. I always asked myself this question when I see Hagia Sofia mosaics, Ravenna, Monreale in Sicily, or the endless mosaic floors in Paphos in Cyprus to name a few examples. But the people back then lived indeed in "different times". No wrist watches, no mobile phones, no crazy agendas. They did this obviously as a means to survive but they were devoted to their art no matter how long it took them. There were those who were simple technicians and those who designed, or the supervisors. Today we would have to fit all these skills into one. And become somewhat lunatic, maybe restless and completely distracted. Multi-tasking? Oh. It has to become second nature otherwise you are nothing. Not a true artist. But consider that with mosaics apart from the designing process you need to know about additives, cement, cutting tools and techniques, liquids etc. This is why I think that in the past, it was better, except for one flaw: anonymity and perhaps another one: bad working conditions. But right now in my life I would not mind if someone said "come decorate a church and for the next 3 years we cover all your costs"! (especially if that church was in an idyllic place and I can think of many).

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Zeimbekiko (within the context of the creative process)

I know it may sound and seem irrelevant but Zeimbekiko (the type of music featured here) is a Greek dance that is danced alone. Alone is the artist too. (I never actually dare call myself artist but everybody says I should). It's impossible to improvise or elaborate ideas that are in your mind unless you are completely alone. I "steal" time but it's not enough. Today (which is the day after I wrote the post, I had an "eureka" time while trying to take a nap at midday. I never fell asleep, as there was too much noise. Later I will sit down and make some drawings. Who knows. Some projects' "destiny" is to remain on paper (or on a web page). Hey! But I am not pessimistic. Mosaic takes time and time is luxury. I have made the most dramatic changes (but not sad at all) in my life this last year that I think that this will be reflected in my new mosaics. The ones that are now in my mind. The ones that this music and similar music or other motivation sources may trigger to become reality.

Thank you blogger buddy Nerzack for the original post.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Mosaics recovered from the attic

I was happy to retrieve these two mosaics, made a lot of time ago, from a box I kept in the attic. I had forgotten all about them!

I like the second better, actually I don't like the first one but I can *endure* looking at it and learning from the mistakes.

Mosaic making involves making mistakes and trying to find solutions, as in all art forms and mediums.
I would be very surprised if someone out there preferred the first one with the green background!!!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Will the mystery of Byzantine mosaic tesserae ever be solved?

I have always been intrigued by mosaic tesserae (tesserae is the term used for the pieces of which a mosaic is made and it seems to derive from the Greek word tessera=τέσσερα which means "4", a square - four angles).

I have been searching and reading whatever I could get my hands and eyes on as I find this subject a bit of a mystery. Who produced mosaic tesserae, was there a specific region, were the glass workshops making smalti tesserae for the specific mosaic making industry, are we talking of Constantinople mosaics of which the tesserae were produced in Constantinople or where they shipped there from somewhere else? How would tones and tones of mosaic pieces travel throughout the Byzantine Empire? Why is it that today the par excellence location for the production of mosaic tesserae is Venice? Are we looking at a production which was more likely global or local?

There's a remarkable abstract from University Professor Liz James from Sussex which I had read some time ago and kept somewhere in a corner of my mind and now it's time to write down a few things.

Liz James has some truly enlightening information on the subject.

When I contacted her, prior to writing this post, she informed me that a project/conference took place end of May in London at the British Museum called New light on old glass Byzantine glass and mosaics.

The conference was organised by Chris Entwistle, Curator of the Late Roman and Byzantine Collections, and Liz James herself, Director of the Leverhulme International Network for the Composition of Byzantine Glass Mosaic Tesserae (University of Sussex).

Naturally, the conference is only a *tessera* of a greater and spectacular mosaic, a project that aims to address technical questions about the manufacture and distribution of coloured glass mosaic tesserae. Workhops will be held in Ravenna, Thessaloniki and London.

Sponsors of the project is offered by The Leverhulme Trust.
More information is available on:
University of Sussex - Art deparment - mosaic tesserae
Prof. Liz James profilephoto credit