Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Lilian Broca - One Tessera at a Time


One tessera at a time, painstaking, laborious, such is the truth of mosaic art. Opus Veritas.
Massimiliano Salviati

(please click individual images to enlarge.)

The Esther Series is one of three major bodies of work by mixed media artist, Lilian Broca. She writes:
Throughout my career I have explored relationships and the nature of the human condition through symbols and metaphors. The Queen Esther Series deals with sacrifice and I chose the biblical Queen Esther as a prototype for the courageous, selfless heroine who wins against all odds. As a young woman, Esther fulfilled her role as leader at a time of crisis with intelligence, persistence and dedication. Today we view her as a role model and as such, she contributes significantly to the status of women in society




Sheila D.Campbell, PhD. Art historian, Archaeologist, Curator of the Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, Toronto wrote in April of 2006 about Lilian's work:

"....But also in common with the mediaeval artist, Lilian is not just telling a story. She has taken a tale from antiquity, and is using the narrative to convey a wider contemporary message, which here is that of the role of women in self sacrifice, and the promotion of non-violent negotiations for peaceful conflict resolution. .... She works with colour and light to achieve her goal. But the success of these panels lies not only in Lilian’s ability to weave a narrative. Her understanding of colour and how it works is superb. The three dimensional effect which is achieved happens because of this understanding. The proof of this is that we don’t notice how the colours are used, that we let our eyes do the blending, and don’t see individual spots of colour. Many people try to work in mosaic. Few achieve such successful and professional results....




Lilian stated: "The bright, seductive colours of Venetian glass and smalti I used in creating mosaics many years ago, suddenly beckoned me." The coincidental fact that mosaics were first mentioned in the biblical Book of Esther (within the description of King Ahasuerus’s palace) contributed to her decision to further explore mosaic art. "In our present Post-Modernist society executing the Esther Series in an ancient method with added contemporary symbolism seems most appropriate."

Note the technical expertise with which Lilian treated the folds of Esther's dress in this Byzantine Style interpretation called, "Esther's Offering".


As Queen of Persia, Esther was as inferior in status as any other woman. Her life at court was luxurious, but since she was completely isolated in the King's harem amongst women of a different culture and customs, she must have felt lonely and sad. Esther first sacrificed her maidenhood; later she was obliged to put her life at risk when ordered to go before King Khashayarsha (without the King’s permission) and reveal the treacherous plans Haman had designed without the King’s knowledge.
She knew the danger to her was great and immediate, for anyone who approached the court uninvited was liable to be condemned to death. She wisely designed a plan in which she played King Khashayarsha (aka Xerxes, Ahasuerus, and Ahashverosh) and evil Haman against each other. It is my intent to portray Esther as a glorious winner, despite all the demands and sacrifices required of her in a patriarchal culture of antiquity.


after sketching numerous ideas I paint the final choice as a guide. These designs are Lilian takes her mosaic art quite seriously. She carefully creates them in reverse as mirror images that later get transferred to the panel used as the final substrate. Looking at and following the painted design she then cuts Venetian glass tesserae imported from Italy into tiny pieces and glues them onto a temporary surface of brown paper the same size as the final mosaic panel. Smalto glass, a combination of opaque glass and enamel, is also being used along with 24 carat gold sandwiched between two thin layers of transparent glass. Four or five shades of each colour are employed to enhance the visual effect; the surface itself becomes a field of attention and more emphatic in its overall unity. Figure and ground merge into one another.

"In a successful mosaic, the manner of the laying of tesserae and the intended image must function interdependently; each individual piece of glass retains its individual identity yet the eye assimilates the pieces into a whole image. This is very different from my previous body of work - paintings and drawings - where the medium was subservient to the image. The mosaics' dramatic subject matter emotive with vibrant colours though laid out in an orderly and rational fashion, are the type of artworks that reflect the present stage in my artistic development."

Lilian tells me that a new web site is under construction. When it is completed, I will announce it here. For now, you may view all three of her incredible series about women at her current web site.





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