Saturday, June 29, 2013

From Tiny Pieces Of Stone, Artwork Forms

A small framed mosaic representing days of work
comprised of hundreds of pieces of tile, stone, and glass
In their most basic form, mosaics are a type art work created through assembling small pieces of tiles, stones, or glass to depict larger scenes.  During ancient times mosaics depicted both the times and served as a means of paying homage to the gods and idols whose presence influenced daily life.  Mosaics may have been designed to be a part of a wall or a floor; they were both small and grand in scale; their subject matter could have been a simple ornamental design or more often, depicted an important religious figure.  Through luck or circumstance some mosaics are better preserved than others.  All too often I hear of mosaics that have been unknowingly destroyed by the actions of mother nature and time or even intentionally pillaged by unscrupulous humans looking to make a quick buck.  Many of the better preserved mosaics are in their current condition because they have been protected from the elements.  Regardless of their condition, these surviving mosaics represent an art form as old as time itself and having the opportunity to view them is a real treat.  In this part of the world, during visits to museums, churches, and excavated ruins the viewing of mosaics is often the highlight of the visit.  Such was the case during a recent trip to the ancient Illyrian city of Bylis when my group had the opportunity to view a large mosaic that was normally protected from the elements by a thick layer of sand.
A temporarily uncovered mosaic at Bylis

Not all mosaics are ancient however as the art form is still practiced by a small number of skilled artisans. And as such,  I was recently fortunate enough to be able to visit a mosaic workshop right here in Tirana.  In his small studio tucked into an alley off of one of Tirana's main streets, artist Eduard Sinaj creates mosaics that are commissioned  by individuals, businesses, and churches throughout Albania and the region.  His mosaics are large and small and grace private residences, local businesses, churches and cathedrals throughout Albania.  His work is just as likely to depict ancient religious figures and icons as it is to portray scenes of modern still life and abstract designs.  All of this is proof that this ancient art form is still practiced and appreciated in today's modern world.

As a part of the visit to the studio Mr. Sinaj explained in great detail the process from bringing a mosaic from concept to reality.  It all starts with an idea and only takes off from there.  The variety of small stones and tiles-- from jewel toned glass and opaque stones to highly prized Murano glass and tiles gilded with silver and gold-- all of them have the potential for becoming a part of a mosaic.  Despite the modern technology that is available in this day and age, Mr. Sinaj goes about his work by hand, sketching the designs, shaping each stone, and placing each tile onto the work surface individually.  It is no wonder that even the smallest mosaic can take months to complete.  Smaller mosaics are completed entirely within the studio while larger ones start in the studio then are assembled by a team of artisans at their final destination.  The painstaking work is truly impressive and makes me, a person without an artistic bone in my body, truly envious.

The surface on which the mosaic will be created

Glass, tile, and stone chips.....a deconstructed mosaic

Tiles  are still chiseled and shaped by hand

A mosaic that has been commissioned by a local apartment complex

Mr. Sinaj's work is truly amazing and I can see why his talents are in such demand.  And I love the fact that this ancient art form is continuing to be practiced in an age when new and modern seems to be all the rage.  I was so impressed with what I saw that Glenn and I are contemplating commissioning our own (small) mosaic so that we can take a part of Albania's rich heritage with us when we depart.  Now if only we can decide what we want..........

A sampling of Mr. Sinaj's work

1 comment:

  1. Nice article and great knowledge about glass and stone mosaic . I love this story and enjoy with your words!