The making of Mona Lee

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Agnieszka Kwiatkowska created Mona Lee at a time of transformation in her own life. Here, Agnieszka writes about the inspirations and thought processes behind her piece, which was shown at the sixth Ravenna Mosaico biennial event in 2023.

By Agnieszka Kwiatkowska

I made this mosaic whilst pregnant with my son. For some time I had felt the urge to move away from the abstract and towards figurative work, yet keeping the sense of softness and fluidity of the tesserae. It felt like a natural progression as, at the time, I was going through an immense transformation myself. I had a lot of questions about my life, my future and myself. I was being a passive observer of this new life taking over my body and thoughts, and affecting my life. 

Whilst transforming and changing, I didn’t recognize either myself or the world around me – everything familiar seemed odd, distorted. The world sometimes felt wrapped around me, my head in a cloudy mist, reality distorted. I spent a lot of time resting, napping, forgetting appointments, cancelling plans, worrying about things that didn’t matter to me before. Navigating through my daily life, I found myself suspended somewhere between the old me and the new me – the one I hadn’t met yet. 

I had this idea – a vision of a woman – so clear and yet blurry and foggy. So familiar and almost iconic, and yet hazy and ambiguous. And as she was emerging right in front of my eyes, taking shape in mosaic, I felt like I was taking a new shape as well. 

I’m fascinated by how, in mosaic, it’s not a line, but the individual points, that draw a picture. The combination of these points connecting is infinite. Paradoxically, in mosaic, in order to see better, one needs to squint the eyes and let the image blur a little. It is then when things become more clear and pieces unite and come together. 

Leonardo da Vinci mastered the technique of sfumato – deriving from an Italian word meaning “to evaporate”, which is also related to the Italian word for smoke (fumo). Unlike other artists, da Vinci drew without creating outlines. Instead, he used different hues to create the illusion of light and shadow. His Mona Lisa doesn’t have edges, but she seems blended into the surrounding landscape. Following the master’s example, I wanted my mosaic to have a vanishing, almost ethereal, quality, leaving the viewer between abstract and figurative. 

Leonardo had his sfumato, but today we put filters on everything from our meals to our faces. The question remains: can we still recognize what’s behind the filter? Is it a new reality or is it the same? Or is it us who are different? 

Instagram: @aurora_mosaics