ANDAMENTO Issue No. 9
Lee Helme: Coming to the City. The Remarkable Art of Collaboration. The story of an award winning mosaic housed in the unpretentious surrounds of a family restaurant near King’s Cross Station. The site-specific mosaic celebrates the millions of travellers who pass through the largest transport hub in Europe and their links to home. Lee Helme tells the story of this monument to the power of collaboration: the South African based restaurant chain and arts patrons Nando’s commissioned the mosaic and the Spier Arts Academy in Cape Town provided the masters and artisans who transformed the work of a renowned designer into glorious reality. She explains the ethos of the Academy, how it recruits and trains apprentices, its focus on creative teamwork. She explores the skills required to translate a design into mosaic; the use of colour and materials; the task of transporting the mosaic from Cape Town to London and its installation. The mosaic was awarded Mosaic of the Year by BAMM in 2012 and has been an international success since.
Lillian Sizemore: God Sees Me. George Ehling’s Mosaic House in Hollywood, California. A chance meeting at a historic mosaic venue in California brought Lillian Sizemore and George Ehling together. Thus began an enduring friendship that granted her access to his hilltop mansion, which he has entirely decorated in mosaic, tile and glass, expressing his lifelong passion for materials and pattern. George’s life as a Hollywood actor forms an intriguing backdrop to his discovery of the European art and architecture which inspires his own joyful creativity: he riffs on decorative motifs. Sizemore argues that the house belongs among the elite of the fantasy and outsider art environments. He is not quite self-taught having attended mosaic classes in Spilimbergo to learn from experts. The mansion has been an almost private location but is receiving more and more attention, in part thanks to Sizemore’s publicizing of it. The article includes photos of Ehling’s early ‘show business’ life, including the magnificent image of George as a gladiator in the film Barrabas.
Teresa Sladen: The Sumptuous Surface. The Quest for Colour and Use of Mosaic in 19th and Early 20th Century Buildings. The Victorian era saw an increasing demand for decorative colour leading to innovations in the manufacture of mosaic. Painted frescoes in the Palace of Westminster having failed – a complex story of damp, London grime and technical incompetence – architects turned to mosaic to provide a durable and colourful surface to decorate the many grand new public buildings and churches, some inspired by Byzantine originals, springing up. The quest to rival the scintillating effects of Byzantine glass began. The Italian Salviati offered glass mosaic of an equivalent brilliance and cornered the British market, but his indirect method produced a lack-lustre surface. Eventually the London firm of Powell & Sons was able, using the direct method of setting with their own glass, to create dazzling mosaics in St Paul’s Cathedral. But non-traditional materials also had their place as spectacularly demonstrated in St Aidan’s, Leeds, when a matter of cost led the artist Frank Brangwyn to choose the vitreous mosaic invented by Jesse Rust & Co.
Heike Zech (with Ilona Jesnick): A Useful Occupation. The ‘Opus Criminale’ Work of Women Prisoners in the Mid-Nineteenth Century. An ever fascinating aspect of mid-19th C mosaic is the work carried out by the women prisoners of Woking and Fulham jails. The records are sparse and tantalising, but at last Heike Zech has pulled them together to provide an introduction to the means and methods of production and a summary of known sites. Examples of convict work are mainly known in London and the south East, and can be seen in the V&A museum and St Paul’s Cathedral – their most prestigious project. As much as we learn about the mechanics of the prison mosaic workshops, we also discover something of the ambience of female jails and the provision of morally uplifting work to save the convict soul. Finally we discover the true facts of the enduring legend of the involvement of Constance Kent, a notorious inmate, incarcerated for the murder of her young brother, in the manufacture of Opus Criminale.