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Joanna Kessel

Joanna Kessel
  • Work
  • Biography
Joanna Kessel MA RCA is currently working on a series of mosaic and cast concrete artworks ‘(In)visible Cities’ inspired by Carlo Scarpa’s architecture and her experiences of Italy - in 2010 she received a Scottish Arts Council Research and Development Award to study historic and contemporary mosaic in Italy. The series also plays on, and takes its title from, Italo Calvino’s novel Invisible Cities and explores the intimate detail, and beauty, of unseen 'glimpsed' spaces.

"The city... does not tell its past, but contains it like the lines of a hand, written in the corners of the streets... every segment marked in turn with scratches, indentations, scrolls".

The mosaics depict a highly personal response to ‘place’. They bring together an interest in abstracted, simplified forms and a fascination with the subconscious associations and memories evoked by these. The work inhabits a place where craft-meets-art-meets-design-meets architecture and explores material relationships - ordinary and precious – from concrete to gold leaf mosaic.

Joanna is interested in mosaic as a contemporary craft rooted in history; the jewel-like qualities of hand-cut mosaic tesserae, the time it takes to create an exquisitely crafted object, the play of light on matt and reflective surfaces and the ‘tangible colours’ of mosaic tesserae contrasting the nuanced, muted tones of natural materials with the brighter spectral hues of manmade ones.
1985-87 - Royal College of Art, London. M.A. - Tapestry, Faculty of Fine Art.
1984-85 – Edinburgh College of Art. Post-Graduate Diploma - Ceramics.
1980-84 – Edinburgh College of Art. BA Hons - Ceramics and Tapestry.

Selected Exhibitions
2016 - Scottish Craft and Design Pavilion, London Design Fair – Craft Scotland and Emergents.
2016 - VAS: Converge
2016 - Palazzo Tadea, Spilimbergo, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy
2015 - VAS:T
2015 & 13 - Ravenna Mosaico, Ravenna, Italy
2014 - Les 3R Mosaic Biennale, Chartres, France
2014 - Clauiano Mosaics, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy
2011 - Andamento: Un Viaggio in Italia. Italian Cultural Institute, Edinburgh

Selected Commissions
2014 - Crookston Dementia Care Unit, Tranent. East Lothian Council Architecture Department
2011 - Strata, Dunbar Primary School. East Lothian Council Architecture Department
2009 - Flow, Macmillan Care Centre, Perth Royal Infirmary
2006 - Flora, Northern General Hospital, Sheffield. NHS Trust / ACE funded.

Recent Awards
2010 - Research and Development Award from the Scottish Arts Council to study specialist mosaic techniques at the Scuola Mosaicisti del Friuli, Italy.
2009 - Craft Maker Awards: Edinburgh
2007 - Grants for the Arts award, Arts Council England

Teaching and Talks
Joanna runs a popular Mosaic Course Programme at Edinburgh Mosaic Studio, including specialist master classes and an annual residential course in Italy. She has delivered Artist in Schools workshop programmes and taught at FE, Degree and Post Graduate levels. Joanna has presented talks about her work and contemporary mosaic, in Britain and Italy.