Mosaic as a decorative practice has been around for over 5,000 years, independently attempted by such dispersed groups as the early Sumerians of Mesopotamia and the Mayas and Aztecs of South and Central America. Origins of more prolific mosaic making technique seem, at present, to go back to 5th Century Greece. The Greeks and Romans really embraced mosaics and they were used for centuries in homes ranging from the most prevalent palaces to more modest abodes. Their popularity eventually waned and practically disappeared in the Middle Ages but has since the 19th Century been making a strong comeback.
Mosaics can be divided into two main categories – figurative mosaic and more mathematical, pattern based mosaics.
Figurative mosaics have a very specific and sensory appeal – they reduce the aesthetic information contained in an image into something that contains only the necessary, prime features, the lines and contours of a face and the most contrasting shadows, for example. The mathematical mosaics, on the other hand, coat the surface with a complex tessellation that busies the surface with a dizzying and beautiful pattern.
With both styles of mosaic, however, the duality of the medium is a primary feature. The mosaics are assembled to make a whole picture, whether it is a pattern for an entire floor or a representation of a battle scene within specific borders. As the mosaic comes together the image reveals itself to the viewer, but the building blocks of the mosaic, the separate tiles from which it is constructed, remain visible and an integral part of the work. Unlike paint, for example, the materials are not a means to an end, rather they make up the final product while simultaneously standing on their own as aesthetically attractive entities to be noticed and appreciated. Although the tiles work together to reveal the final scene, each tile is also trying to outshine the other and be noticed in the piece. This is also why natural stones, infinitely different and individual, have been and continue to be the prime mosaic building material.
Presently, mosaics have once again become a decorating favorite. Although unlike throughout history, mosaic makers are viewed more as craftspeople than artists. This could be because there is more technology available to help the artisans, or anyone interested in the practice, construct accurate mosaics from formulas or images. Some contribute its altered status as a consequence of a more widespread and available form of creativity, relatively affordable and relatively available as a design element or hobby. Ancient Greek mosaics were also prevalent in all parts of society, yet the general trend of mosaics has been to appear in more lavish, elite settings like palaces and ornamented churches.
The mosaics themselves have also changed. Many people choose to install mosaics in their homes because they want the look and feel of the ancient world and they choose appropriate designs, with Greek inspired borders and motifs. But there are those that take the medium and adapt it to more contemporary times. Mosaics now appear made of less traditional materials, like metals and glass, and with bolder and more modern designs.
Regardless of emerging designs and materials, mosaic has remained a highly regarded installation in any home, functional as a floor but also an astounding piece of art that can be incorporated into most surfaces – floors, walls, ceiling and anything in between.
Check out mosaics and decorative borders at Barefoot Floor.
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