Imagine you are in a fairy park, with trees, a funny dog and a bird made by little and bright tiles of stone, lime and glass and, at the same time, in the area you can see a pink bench, a leaning tower recalling the Pisa's one, a coil spring fibre looking like the ribonucleic acid, a small pyramid, extravagant panels, belfries and a pine-cone shape fountain appearing from the grass. No, you are not dreaming, you are at the Spilimbergo Mosaics School, renowned all over the world for its high-quality works, sculptures and reproductions of ancients artists' creations. Founded in 1922, the school was enriched by the experience and know-how of the Friulian labourers who, during the 500s, 600s, 700s, and 800s migrated to Venice to learn this technique. We know mosaic was popular within Romans, Greeks, Byzantine and even Sumerian civilisations, with traces supported until 3000 B.C. Hence, the Venetian sovereignity and history were essential to mould this unique hand workers for Friuli Venezia Giulia region.
So, people returning from the Venetian lessons had the idea to use the stones from the regional rivers -one of which was the Tagliamento- and make this art fruitful for the commerce and the surviving of craftsmanship heritage. Professionals had left Spilimbergo since 1800 to build their careers around the world, especially in United States, Argentina, Australia, Canada and France. They also worked in the Eastern-Europe in mosques, town halls, parliamentary palaces and so on. There is a mosaic in Canberra in the parliament zone, but overall, anyone can admire a Spilimbergo Mosaic in New York squares, Beijing and Russian main cities. Nowadays, aiming to conciliate tradition with innovation, the mosaics designers are also working within industrial decoration and developing new techniques as well.
Outstanding is the giant panel at the entrance, representing the famous Picasso paint of Guernica, in this case made by tiny solid cards. The Main façade of the school is a manifesto itself of its peculiar intent: spreading the Beauty with puzzled decorations, here following the deco and liberty art patterns of the years of foundation.
Let's go in. Mosaic Art here is everywhere! During summer the school is open to tourists, who are allowed to visit the students workshops and classrooms in which projects, lessons and the final productions are held within the academic year. It's quite interesting to understand the approach to the subjects and to observe how the right tools, colours and the material have to be engaged and combined together prior a successful results. All around the building and the corridors, walls, ceilings and floors are decorated into mosaics. Even the coffee bar has its quirky tables, themed, of course, with food and all kind of nutrients assembled in the surface. If you need personalised hooks, no problem, the school can satisfy your request. The rubbish bins are covered with the glazed tales, your feet are stepping on circled and fan-like, geometrical fantasies, the spiral handrails remind of Gaudi's creations, the chandelier is perfectly generated by the flower. You are completely surrounded by colours; you feel lively with the glowing tonalities and reflective with a trio of flat shades. Few papers on the classroom doors are inviting people to try a course for mosaic lovers. I might enrol in someday. If you like, spend a bit of time reading the glossary, the key-words of this art. You will just add points to your culture.
Speaking of excellence, the use of mosaics involved in different contexts innovative and inspiring – in this case extracted from the square support - and combined with modern materials. Steel spheres, hanging and flying in the air that, once they touch the ground they break and explode in a vivid magma. What is the meaning behind? I like to give those pictures the sense of life which boils in everyone and generates a multicolour vitality, genders and different ethnicities. A state of being that could be thorny, full of bonds and connections and finally it becomes relaxed, dyed with random brushstrokes. It looks like to be in a psychedelic path, and we have its depiction too. Just follow the sequence below.
This form of art refers to the ancient Greek and Romans models of decoration. So, the students can re-create a floor mosaic on request, based on the old Domus type topics. Therefore, a gladiator with hunting a lion can be reproduced again; as well as exotic scenes with flowers, plants and blue peacocks; the Greek myth of Leda and the swan; Neptune surrounded by mermaids and tritons; Apollo and his winged chariot. The panels look like paintings from a certain distance, but the trained eye knows it's an illusion given by the detailed laying of the stone tiles. You can also pay attention to these medium squares which contain one subject each: the main intent could be describing the ecosystem: so, in order, there is a pear, a turtle, mushrooms, a bird, a fish, a snail and an apple. It's nice to notice the savvy use of blue and reds, primary colours to make such a brilliant piece.
A number of famous painters are imitated here; we find Picasso, Klimt, Canova, Giacomo Balla, Mondrian and many more. One of the first you encounter at the school and ongoing exhibition is the re-interpreted Piety of Canova. The power of the sculptor is honoured at the best, even in this oval depiction which gives concreteness to the solemnity of the subject. It really moves the spectator, as if he were at the presence of the sculpture itself.
Then, Klimt's portraits and women are used as a forge and exercise by the students; Picasso with his multi-perspective of reality; the futurist Balla with the speed element as the new concept in life (here with the dog on a leash). We can admire the light and soft 700s "canvas" of a mother and son and American modern artists too.
The school looks at the Aboriginal Art with one huge mask of shining contours, detailed featured and intense reds. The second one, of brownish and ochre tones is pouring out a crocodile. I do not know the exact meaning, but there is a magnificence and gravity coming from it. A mosaic of fluid and rainbow colours split by a grey crack crowns the tribute to the Australian natives.
Eventually, I would like to show several free interpretations of life and nature caught in the works exhibited in the institute workshops. You can catch butterflies flapping in the walls and in different backgrounds, leaves in whirlwinds decorated in gold and silver, symbols in topaz hues and with enigmatic meanings, creative totems mixing lots of styles and imagination, mysterious and, at the same time, voluptuous women enclosed in stars. Moreover, angelic and pure faces of maidens, or natural portraits of young ladies who leave any interpretations of expression in their eyes. That's the strength and power of Mosaic Art.