Truly happy to hear that today India stands united with our Kashmiri brothers and sisters. Thankfully craft never had any such boundaries to fight over. One such example being Mosaic – starting in Mesopotamia in the 3rd millennium BC. Pebble mosaics were made in Tiryns in Mycenean Greece while the ones with patterns and pictures became widespread during classical times in Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome. This art flourished in the Byzantine Empire from 6th – 15th centuries. Then was traditionally adopted by the Norman Kingdom of Sicily in the 12th century, and the Rus in Ukraine. Even earlier Romans and Byzantines (Eastern Roman Empire with its capital as Constantinople, now Istanbul) had influenced Jewish artists to decorate 5th and 6th century synagogues in the Middle East with floor mosaics, at the time of transition from classical antiquity to the Middle Ages. But, it fell out of fashion in the Renaissance, during the changeover from the Middle Ages to Modernity, even when artists like Raphael continued practicing the old technique. cited wikipedia
Taking cue are a Mumbai based young sister duo – Aashika and Tanishaa. Aashika, the elder of the two, is adept at portraits while Tanishaa enjoys flora and fauna. I’m sharing our email exchanges.
MD: What is your family and educational background?
A&Tcunha: Our family hails from Goa. Grandmother Anne was a writer by profession, who also dabbled in mosaics with scraps of glass, beads and anything she could get her hands on in the 60s. Father is a chartered accountant, and mother is a child counsellor who runs creative classes for kids. And we are two siblings.
In addition to this work, we both have our separate careers. Currently, Aashika works at the Jehangir Nicholson Art Foundation at CSMVS, Mumbai. She completed her Bachelor’s in Fine Arts, from Lasalle College of the Arts, Singapore in 2012. While the younger one Tanishaa is the creative director at Plane Crazy Studios, Mumbai. She completed her Bachelor’s degree in Design from Goldsmiths College, London, last year – 2018.
MD: Narrate your journey in mosaic. A&Tcunha: Ever since we were little kids, our parents encouraged us to be artistic and use our creativity. Not sure, but subconsciously our grandmother’s mosaic work could have steered us in that direction. As it was never a hobby. Our first happened after visiting Gaudi Park in Barcelona, in 2015. Father pushed us to create one for our building terrace. And later both parents uploaded its picture on Facebook, much to our dismay. Now, mother manages our work along with hers.
Giving the Facebook post its due, we got our first mosaic mural commission at the Ala Moana Mall in Honolulu, Hawaii in 2015 itself, from there. We have not looked back since then, with over 120 mosaics completed – both public and private commissions.
MD: What has your childhood been like in terms of design and art? Aashika: I loved painting, and experimenting on various surfaces. Encouraged by my grandmother, I enjoyed working with mixed media i.e. scraps, glass and whole lot of paint.
Tanishaa: As a child, I was blown away by comic characters and animation industry. But most importantly, having a sister who was 7 years older than me, made me want to mimic everything she was doing. Since she was into art, I wanted to try my hand at it too!
MD: Which tiles do you use?
A&Tcunha: We import some of our glass vitreous mosaic tiles from Italy and others from all over India. And also love to incorporate mother-of-pearl and semi precious tiles, on request.
MD: What has been your most challenging project?
Aashika: One of the toughest projects we worked on was an elephant, ‘Mara,’ for the Elephant Parade, which we recently completed in February 2019. We were creating various endangered species of flora and fauna on the elephant to create awareness. With no prior experience of working on curved surfaces, we had a challenge of making sure the tiles did not slip down the surface.
Tanishaa: The most challenging work for me was the portrait of Sheikh Zayed, the father of the UAE, which we did in Abu Dhabi in 2018. Getting the characteristics right of any person is so difficult, especially someone who is an idol! Mosaic is not like a painting, which you can change with just a stroke. Another issue is that the skin tone colours available are limited unlike paint, in which you can mix and create more shades.
MD: Who do you admire in the same space?
Aashika: The works of Jason Middlebrook a New York based multi media artist are inspiring, as he transforms the ancient art of mosaic into a contemporary art pieces, looking like paintings, but with a more three-dimensional feel.
Tanishaa: Antoni Gaudi or ‘God’s Architect’, the face of Catalan architecture in Spain, is one of my biggest inspiration. His works are a great mix of nature and modernism, at the Parc Güell, Barcelona which is a short bus ride from the church and up a steep hill.
Modernisme style architects Antoni Gaudí and Josep Maria Jujol gave way to contemporaries like Emma Biggs (UK), Marcelo de Melo (Brazil), Isidora Paz Lopez (Chile) Sonia King, Nick Misani, Jason Dussault, Jim Bachor, Doreen Adam (USA) and Saimir Strati (Albania) and Lilian Broca (Canada), Seung Hoon Park (Korea), Invader (France).
This skewed representation of the art has me intrigued about it in the Eastern hemisphere, now.
Photo credit Aashika & Tanishaa Cunha