Gail Mangold-Vine Geneva

SIP, Geneva

A 12-panel, 7 x 2 m mosaic montage, 2001

Concept: Jane Le Besque, Photography and computer effects: Christophe Jacquemet

Some mosaics bear a crest comprising the initials of both the artist and the photographer.

This montage by Jane Le Besque and Christophe Jacquemet is about unity, harmony, balance, like the perfect cosmic marriage of mountain and sky. Or the Garden of Eden.

And it is about the split, the division – like the wrench of separation from the womb – wrought by eating the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge and the expulsion from the garden (Genesis 3), leaving humankind on a perpetual quest to (re)unite body and mind, the earthly with the other-worldly: to fit the pieces of the puzzle back together again.

In that sense, the earth and sky also symbolize separation and man’s quest for unity within himself, with others, and with the universe.

To make the montage, a digital photographic image was taken in St. Genis, France, of the Jura Mountains: forest, summit above the tree line, sky. Each panel comprises 16 puzzle pieces of the global image. Each printout is in turn superimposed with 16 wood-textured 4 x 3 cm mosaics with subtle individual variations to their pearly coloration. There are a total of 256 mosaic pieces in each panel, or 3,072 in all.

Seen as a step-like ascension, ‘The Marriage of Earth and Sky’ has three rungs: the forest, its autumnal foliage symbolizing the seasons of the year and hence the passage of time and the life cycle, but also the celebration of earth that is fertility. The forest is also the maze, the labyrinth, the dark. Then, like a stepping-stone to the heaven, the mountain top. And, finally, the sky. The feeling of ascension is accented by the pyramid formed in the eye from the lower corners of the outermost bottom panels to the central well where the clouds separate to reveal the blue beyond.

But we are not just drawn upward as a plant is towards the light: we are drawn into the depths of this piece as we would be into a maze, or a forest. One reason is the ‘layering’ of the image, like a box within a box within a box. Another is that the figurative symbolism of older art forms – even to the association of icon-like painting on wood panels – has been paired with technology to evoke layer upon layer of succeeding generations and eras, myths, legends and religions. The mountain takes on a menhir-like quality, while the ‘light well’ in the sky has overtones of the Baroque.

But if the upward motion and the depth of this piece have more to do with the seeking, the quest, equally important here is the cosmic unity depicted in the interdependence of earth and sky, fused the one into the other like yin and yang. Blue watery elements play over the whole imposing somber severe monolithic mountain mass as well as the generally dark and cloudy sky. It is almost as if the texture of the mosaics that suffuse all 12 panels with their prism-like ocean shell colors is underneath and that it is the mountain and sky that are superimposed on them. We can no longer quite make it out; the one is imbued in the other.

Jane Le Besque