One of the highlights of my career was in January 2014 in Puente Alto, Chile. Puente Alto is now known as the mosaic capital of the Southern Hemisphere and its not hard to see why.
I was selected along with 80 artists from 22 countries to participate in this incredible event. Even though I was living in UK at the time there was no doubt that I was representing NZ – as pacific neighbours we have lots in common.
This project was initiated and managed by Chilean ceramic artist Isidora Paz Lopez with full support from the Municipality of Puente Alto. She had already proved her alchemical magic by adorning over 40000 metres in mosaic along the Metro Station with a team of dedicated and passionate local artisans. You can watch a film about it here
The plan for us was to adorn the front facade of the Mayoral Chambers as a continuing linear mosaic mural based on the theme of a ‘Magic Garden. It seemed a pretty crazy idea at the time but we knew that it could be possible with Isidora at the helm. The magic garden turned out to be flora and fauna from the Andes Mountains which dominate and beautify the skyline of Santiago. First job was to assign ourselves to a spot on the wall and get drawing.
It was kind of ironic that I ended up at the last space on the far right – us Kiwis are used to often being left off the world map altogether. But actually it turned out that my little stand alone end space actually had impact.
It was a dream come true meeting and creating next to mosaic artists i’d admired and been inspired by over the years. Artists from UK, USA, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Ukraine, Germany, Italy.. the list goes on. Some that had written books, others films, plus great reunions with fellow artists and friends from prior projects abroad. There is something incredible about all working collectively as a global family. It really felt like finally i’d found my tribe.
We worked on the wall on separate individual sq metre sections, chipping and sticking all in our own unique way. I was particularly fascinated by how different our individual styles were and couldn’t help thinking this was dependent on our country and cultural influence. South American mosaics were bold, strong and dominated in warm colours, and the Europeans paid a lot more attention to detail, some even filing each shard edge to jewel like perfection!
Backgrounds began to blend everything together courtesy of Team Chile who made our garden come to life by inserting tiles to look like an old stone wall. It was effective and realistic looking, like our wild mosaic facade had been there forever
So after 10 days of utter enjoyment and hard slog it was complete. The entire facade of the Town Hall on two sides including the central elaborate entrance way covered in hand cut ceramic mosaic tiles. An amazing project with some very special people. May it be the first of many.
Check out the film of our project here