Piece and love

Yorkshire Post - YP Magazine - - Front Page -

Ded­i­cated to re­viv­ing the art of mo­saic mak­ing,

Sarah Free­man meets the two York­shire artists piec­ing to­gether fa­mous faces. Pic­tures by Bruce Rollinson.

Some artists have loft stu­dios in Lon­don’s hip­ster East End. Oth­ers toil away in Parisian at­tics wait­ing for their work to be dis­cov­ered. Al­lan Butt and Rita Gav have a con­verted garage on the busy Brad­ford Road in Bat­ley. It might not have the tor­tured glam­our of some workspaces, but in­side there is more than a smat­ter­ing of celebrity. Next to John Len­non there is Paul McCart­ney, op­po­site there is Steven Ger­rard and star­ing out to­wards the door are Johnny Depp and Madonna. Each of the mo­saics is cre­ated from thou­sands of pieces of coloured tiles and by the door­way is the mu­sic leg­end which be­gan it all – Jimi Hen­drix.

“He was the first celebrity mo­saic I ever did,” says Rita, who had al­ways been in­ter­ested in art but for years couldn’t see a way to make it pay the bills. “When I met Al­lan about 10 years ago I was al­ready mak­ing mo­saics for a hobby, but they tended to be more ab­stract works in­spired by the likes of Pi­casso. Al­lan saw them and sug­gested I have a go at work­ing on a mo­saic por­trait. We are both in­ter­ested in mu­sic and Jimi Hen­drix is one of my he­roes, so that was a nat­u­ral place to start.”

Since then a whole litany of fa­mous faces have fol­lowed, in­clud­ing the Stone Roses’ Ian Brown, Paul Weller and David Bowie. Al­lan, a tiler by trade, also has an artis­tic streak and to­gether the pair de­cided to set up Iconic Mo­saics in the hope of get­ting their work out to a wider au­di­ence.

“At school I ex­celled at two things – art and sport. Ev­ery­thing else I was hope­less at,” says Al­lan. “Com­ing from a work­ing class back­ground, go­ing to art school wasn’t an op­tion, so when I left I got a trade. Tiling ended up be­ing the day job, but while I was work­ing down in Lon­don I saw th­ese guys work­ing on some re­ally dec­o­ra­tive in­stal­la­tions and thought, ‘I could do that’. I started ex­per­i­ment­ing and over the years that’s what I’ve be­come known for.”

The cou­ple worked on an im­pres­sive cir­cu­lar mo­saic which pro­vided the cen­tre piece for the East In­dia Tea Com­pany’s flag­ship Lon­don store. Built in Bat­ley and as­sem­bled in the cap­i­tal, the new look store has won a clutch of de­sign awards, but this year the pair want to con­cen­trate on pro­mot­ing their celebrity por­traits.

“I can get lost for hours when I’m in the work­shop,” says Al­lan. “Tiling is what I do for a liv­ing, but the art is what I live for. It is painstak­ing work, but it’s also re­ally ther­a­peu­tic. Some­times I’m up un­til the early hours of the morn­ing and I never re­alise where the time has gone.”

While the pair have a shared love of the art form, they work on each por­trait sep­a­rately, but have a joint per­ma­nent ex­hi­bi­tion of their work at the View 2 gallery in Liver­pool.

“I al­ways start with the white dot in the eyes,” says Rita, who did re­turn to art school as a ma­ture stu­dent but left when she re­alised she had al­ready found her style. “If you don’t get the eyes right, the rest of the mo­saic will never work. They re­ally are the heart and soul of any work.

“We both work from images, but we don’t draw out how we want the mo­saic to look, it’s more about gut feel­ing. I’ve al­ways found Kurt Cobain to be quite a sad char­ac­ter so when I was work­ing on his por­trait I used a lot of pur­ples which cre­ate quite a mourn­ful look, whereas with some­one like Johnny Depp I wanted some­thing much warmer so there are a lot of browns and yel­lows.”

The pair’s large mo­saics sell for any­thing

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.