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TE-21 launched

TE-21 (short for Tessellated Expression for the 21st century), a new exhibiting group, was launched in Chartres, France, on 25 October 2008 by four mosaic artists, each internationally recognised. They were Elaine M. Goodwin (England), Dugald MacInnes (Scotland), Lucio Orsoni (Italy) and Toyoharu Kii (Japan).

The launch took place under the aegis of the Association Les 3R, which organises the biennial Rencontres Internationales de la Mosaique in Chartres.

The opening Presentation was given by Elaine M. Goodwin. Then Dugald MacInnes and Lucio Orsoni spoke animatedly of proposals for future exhibitions. Lucio Orsoni is giving positive support in arranging an Extravaganza exhibition in Cannaregio, Venice, with Pino Bisazza – dates have yet to be arranged but keep an eye on the Mosaic Matters Exhibition Diary...

The texts of three Presentations follow.

Elaine M Goodwin – What is TE-21?

What is TE-21? It is a new art movement created solely to give established professional artists of personally expressed mosaic the possibility of exhibiting together – internationally. We hope that what we have formed is an exciting opportunity for artists working in an otherwise marginalised facet of mosaic.

At present we, the progenitors, are the first four founder members – myself (from England), Toyoharu Kii (from Japan), Dugald MacInnes (from Scotland) and Lucio Orsoni (from Venice) – four very diverse artists from four different countries but with one singular and exclusive aim. As this aim becomes more established, we wish to entice like-minded artists to join us, thus building up a core of artists worldwide who use mosaic solely as their means of self expression, i.e. where the content or voice of the work is paramount.
Touché, 2008, by EMG

We are well aware that self expression is a minority aspect of mosaic, yet we are driven to create this new movement as we become ever more aware that mosaic is still not considered a worthy medium for addition to National Art Collections. For example, there is no contemporary mosaic work in the Tate Gallery in London. The Curator, Sir Nicholas Serota, has responded to any correspondence by continually saying that mosaic belongs to the Victoria and Albert Museum, an excellent museum in London but for the applied and decorative arts only.

Is mosaic ever to be accepted as a fine art medium? Of course aspects of mosaic do, and must, belong with the decorative arts, but one specific aspect of the medium, which is ignored or largely unexplored, belongs also to National Art Galleries and Collections. The example from England which I have just given is but one of many instances of a Curator of a leading National Modern Art Collection having a blinkered vision as to the full potential of the mosaic medium. MOSAIC is not recognized as a serious art form, and this is a lamentable situation.

One crucial element has not helped this predicament.

The very word 'mosaic' conjures up for many people a preconditioned understanding of the medium – that is, one which they recognize as either functional, utilitarian, decorative or having a religious content. Aware of this preconditioning, we – as a group – have deliberately dropped the word 'mosaic' from the movement's name. TE-21 stands for Tessellated Expression for the 21st Century – which fortunately translates well into French and Italian.

We are indeed grateful to Chartres as a city with the foresight to have initiated an International Collection of contemporary works of personal expression, in the spirit of an enlightened Fine Art collector. This vision for the medium can be doubly witnessed today, both by the present exhibition of the city's founding works here at the Galerie Chapelle St Eman; and by the very fact that we have been invited to give launching papers to this symposium!

I would like to expand a little more on what we mean by using the medium of mosaic for self expression. I know many of you, familiar with the many facets of mosaic, will be all too well aware of what I mean, but for clarity please allow me to elaborate.

The creation of such a work is primarily concerned with concepts – with conveying deeply felt emotions or closely perceived ideas, and creating a work of art not through painterly or sculptural media, but through the unique materials to be found in the timeless medium of mosaic. The long lineage from which we all work is universally acknowledged to be rich and wondrous – but we must attach equal cultural importance to the expressive present period for mosaic.

So, each artist in the movement must have a profoundly-developed passion for mosaic, individually expressed through an established 'voice', i.e. a recognizable working style, where each can explore their realm of being through abstraction. By coming together and by creating a unified front, we feel we can form a strong and diverse force to fully re-present the medium.

Thus, to sum up, we have but one simple aim – to join together to present international mosaic exhibitions solely pursuing personal expression, and with crystal clarity to divorce mosaic from the ornamental and the functional and to establish a cerebral and visual genus for the medium as a potent one for contemporary expression.

Thank you.

Dugald MacInnes

I would like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to the city of Chartres, in particular to Patrick Maquaire and his colleagues, for once again organising magnificent exhibitions in such beautiful venues. Chartres is indeed becoming synonymous with international mosaic and it is a most fitting venue for the launch of TE-21. Gratitude also goes to Chartres for providing a platform for Elaine, Kii, Lucio and myself to speak today about TE-21, the reasoning behind its conception and its hopes for the future.

Elaine has very succinctly defined TE-21, established the reasons for the creation of the movement and firmly laid out the criteria for TE-21 artists. TE-21 is not an elitist movement. It is merely an avenue through which, as Elaine has clearly stated, to give established professional artists who are working in an expressive manner the opportunity to exhibit together. That is all TE-21 purports to be. We are not in any way elevating our art above that of other practitioners.
Earth Two, 2008, by DM

TE-21 is not a movement born out of hot-headed youthfulness. The four of us are far too long in the tooth for such actions. There are no Marinettis setting out to throw away the art of the past and change the world! The movement, rather, has been born from considered and thoughtful responses to the simple fact that there is a desire for those expressive artists who are working in the wider body of the mosaic world to have a distinctive voice.

It has taken time to reach where we are today. Just over three years ago, although it now seems a longer age away, Elaine, Robert Field, my wife Anne and I sat around an outdoor table of a Glasgow restaurant discussing the issue of the relatively small band of mosaic artists with an expressive bent and how best to present the work of such artists. At this Glasgow venue the title TE-21, Tessellated Expression for the 21st Century, was born and the name, written down for the very first time, was committed onto a white napkin.

Where do we go from here? We do wish for other artists to join with us. There is, however, no manifesto, no committee, nor is there a selection of criteria for the inclusion of other artists, and definitely no desire for interminable meetings.

What do we ask of the TE-21 artists? Do we ask for integrity or deeply-felt emotional responses to a particular context? Or an awareness of the development of modern art? Or a long involvement in art? Or that the artists hold true to their art? Or do we ask for all of these things?

There is no clear answer, and perhaps there never will be. If we seem more than a little vague with regard to expansion of TE-21 then this is possibly deliberate. Many of you here may have witnessed the rise and fall of the well-intended group or movement where its aims have been subsumed in a mire of bureaucracy.

We do plan our first full exhibition in Venice in the near future, and perhaps after that – and following any reaction to the show – we can think about next steps. In the meantime we welcome comments, suggestions and any questions that you may have. Thank you.

Toyoharu Kii (read in absentia by Sir Patrick Macquaire of the Association Les 3R. Kii is one of Japan's leading mosaic artists. He has had a long experience in producing mosaic murals.)

He states: "The main theme of mosaic is to think of it as a language of expression. This must be the theme for all TE-21 artists.
"Similar, perhaps, to most other artists of mosaic, I consider the main feature of mosaics to be the use of tesserae. The size, height and the form of tesserae, coupled with the width of grout line, are the elements that, for me, define the features of mosaic art. These features have the greatest visual impact when only one colour of material is used. This is the very strict, but personal regime I have been working under for more than ten years. Recently, however, I have been extending my exploration of mosaic by introducing more colours. I have experimented this way by making "tableaux" [portable pieces]. This recent work will be reflected in future mosaic murals of mine.
Good morning Japan, 2008 by TK

"Unfortunately mosaic murals have gone out of fashion in Japan. It would appear that architects no longer wish to introduce mosaic into their architecture. However, I do not think that the role of mosaic in architecture is finished yet...."


Turquoise Beginning, 2008 by Lucio Orsoni

(All photographs by Elaine M. Goodwin)



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