Art makes a splash
A large-scale ceramic artwork, created exclusively with Mosa tiles and playfully set underneath Paris’ Pont du Garigliano, is the latest piece unveiled by artist Noemi Sjöberg. Entitled ‘Plongeon’ (‘Dive’), the artwork is based on an idea that found its perfect embodiment in Mosa’s inspirational Scenes series, and was made as part of a competition organised by the City of Paris. ‘Plongeon’ draws strongly on its locale’s history, kick starting an exciting debate about art, perception, and the urban environment while celebrating the culture of swimming.
The birth of an idea
When Swedish/Spanish Sjöberg came across the Embellir Paris open completion, which invited artists to submit ideas for twenty different sites across the French capital in 2018, she jumped at the opportunity. Picking Pont du Garigliano as her site, she applied and was commissioned to create a bespoke, site-specific artwork there in 2019.
The piece, an impressive 22.20 metres long x 3.60 metres high two-dimensional surface created with ceramic tiles by Mosa, depicts Sjöberg’s interpretation of a historical photograph of a Seine swimmer. During her research around Pont du Garigliano, Sjöberg discovered that while the current bridge was built in 1966, it had replaced another, earlier, bridge named Viaduc d'Auteuil, which wasn't tall enough for river traffic and had to be, eventually, replaced. However, before that, in the early 20th century, the site was the designated finish point of a city-wide swimming race called ‘La Traversée de Paris à la nage’ (which loosely translates to ‘swimming through Paris’).
Sjöberg searched and found several images of the event at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France. Among them was a photo of a man diving, taken by l'Agence Rol in 1922. ‘What a beautiful thing it would be to revive this forgotten memory and heritage of the neighbourhood’, the artist recalls thinking. And so, with the support of Embellir Paris, the City of Paris and Mosa, ‘Plongeon’ was born.
One piece, many experiences
Sjöberg cropped and modified the original image’s background, pixelating the swimmer’s body. Playing with perspective and perception is a staple in the artist’s overall body of work and interests, so this treatment allowed her to experiment with this here too. Up close, the piece feels totally abstract, but if you look at it from afar, the figure of a person becomes very clear and focused.
The piece allows for various viewings in more ways than one. While it portrays a man jumping into the water, due to his bathing suit (a one-piece style, typical of the time), one could be mistaken to think the image is of a woman. ‘I like that confusion because after all what matters is that, he or she is a person, a human being’, says Sjöberg.
Inspired by the water
Due to its theme, the piece fits organically within its riverside site, but it also remains true to the artist’s ongoing fascinations. ‘Water is a recurrent element in my art’, she explains. ‘I was attracted to the nearby river La Seine and its relationship with its environment.’
This is not the first time Sjöberg works with figures of swimmers either. The video, installation, and photography artist has previously developed a series of photographs (also pixelated) of teenagers diving into water from bridges of different highs in Essaouira (Morocco) and Porto (Portugal). ‘There is something about the gesture of jumping or diving that is so seducing’, she explains. ‘It represents the desire for freedom and daring’.
The perfect partner
Ceramic tiles provided the perfect material to put together this intricate artwork. ‘I wanted to use a resistant material, not decorative or ephemeral, something actually with an industrial look’, says Sjöberg. ‘The photography is pixelated, so it looks abstract when you stand close to it but gets more focused the farther you stand. It made sense and felt physically achievable to replace each pixel by a tile.’
Mosa became the ideal material partner, as not only does the company’s Scenes series have a large variety of grey tones and offers tiles with an inherent individuality (in each batch, no two tiles are identical), but also it has a distinctive grain that brings to mind an old photograph. ‘Additionally Mosa Scenes tiles make the image vibrate and in this case, the swimmer is in action, it’s a moving image’, explains the artist. ‘I also wanted the reproduction of the image to be matte and so are the tiles in Scenes. Another fact that I appreciate is that Mosa is a sustainable manufacturing company’.
Making it happen
The piece was meticulously produced in the artist’s Barcelona workshop using a striking 3552 tiles - a mix of the ceramic specialist’s Mosa Scenes (11 gradients of shades of grey), Mosa Global (1 white style) and Mosa Softgrip (1 white style). The artist then mocked up the pattern on the floor of Mosa’s Maastricht headquarters, before the tiles were transported and the piece was created directly on the wall in Paris over the course of three weeks.
‘Plongeon’ was officially launched in August 2019 and will remain on site for at least five years.
|Mosa series:||Scenes, Global Collection, Softgrip|
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