Leading up to Christmas and into January, The Gallery in Mogo is featuring mosaic artist Joanna Virgo.
Joanna creates her artworks using sophisticated materials sourced from the other side of the world. ‘Smalti’, a rectangular Italian glass tile celebrated for its variance of colour, opacity and brilliance, is her favourite. It has a rich, almost fudge-like appearance, yet is as hard as stone. Joanna says, “’Smalti’ reflects light beautifully, the tiles are not uniform in size or shape so you can use all sides, even creating three dimensional effects if that is what you want.”
She uses an exquisite glass bead called ‘millefiori’ or ‘a thousand flowers’ in her jewellery, as well as miniature ‘smalti’, other micro glass tiles and tiny handmade Moroccan tiles. Semi-precious gems, amber and turquoise can also be found in her collection.
Joanna, a holder of a Masters degree in Law and Administration from Warsaw University, is understandably disciplined in her extensive research of materials and methods. But there is undercurrent of passion and spirit of adventure in the life and art of this quiet achiever who worked for the Commonwealth public service before retiring to Malua Bay with husband David.
A refugee from behind the ‘Iron Curtain’, Joanna escaped on a tourist visa, travelling by bus through Czechoslovakia and Hungary to Austria and arrived in Australia in 1985 with her then husband. She was, at the time, three months pregnant and spoke no English.
She says “It was so frightening yet exhilarating at the same time! At a prearranged spot, my fiancée waited for me in Vienna with the largest and most beautiful bunch of flowers, and on sighting him I told the bus driver to stop and unload my luggage—I would not be going any further.”
Joanna’s interest (addiction say some in her family) in mosaics led her to the North African nation of Tunisia, formerly a Roman colony called Carthage. Tunisia’s Bardo museum has the world’s largest collection of ancient Roman mosaics. “Visiting their National Museum and taking so many photographs of their collection was the happiest hour of my life” she says.
Joanna became determined to create her own mosaics—initially Roman inspired panels and her signature ‘Elephant’ panel is based on a Roman wall mosaic. She experiments with more semi-abstract works and has expanded into making mirrors framed in mosaic using locally collected shells and natural stones as well as tiles and occasionally adds copper beads or embossed foil into her creations.
Researching current trends in contemporary mosaic, Joanna has been inspired to purchase a kiln in which to fuse glass designs for incorporation into future mosaics.
More of Joanna’s work can be seen on her Facebook page www.facebook.com/AshasMosaics/
The Gallery is a co-operative venture of CABBI, a society open to local arts and crafts practitioners. People interested in finding out more about CABBI should drop in to The Gallery or phone 02 4474 2243.