Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Elephant No. 103: Feature Artist Réal Lachance

I saw the work of Kingston, Ontario artist Réal Lachance at a high-end craft show last fall, and I was instantly attracted. Although modern mosaics aren't generally my thing, the detail in Lachance's work really appealed to me.

I had to buy the elephant, of course—particularly because I knew I would never have the skill or patience to create such a thing myself. If you'd ever seen me attempting to tile a wall or floor, you'd agree.

Sarah by Réal Lachance
Smalti on MDF — 10 x 12 inches (25.5 x 30.5 cm)
Source: Etsy

Because my elephant is only 6 x 6 inches (15 x 15 cm) in size, the level of detail reminds me a lot of the various ancient mosaics I've seen. And we're talking detail. The elephant's eye, for example, is a tiny square tile no bigger than the head of a pin.

David, the Fort Henry Mascot by Réal Lachance.
Smalti on MDF — 6 x 6 inches (15.25 x 15.25 cm)
Source: Etsy

The work I bought is made of carefully shaped pieces of stained glass, which gives it a subtle glow I really like. Lachance also uses smalti and even pebbles to create works that are quite unique—and incredibly reasonable. Custom portraits of animals and people are a particular specialty, as you can see in the images I've included here.

Golden Lab by Réal Lachance.
Smalti on MDF — 5 x 7  inches (12.75 x 17.75 cm)
Source: Etsy

I love my little elephant, and will probably buy one or two more pieces in future—perhaps I'll even commission a custom work at some point. I thought I didn't like modern mosaic, but I think I may change my mind.

To see more of Réal Lachance's work, click here.

Elephant Lore of the Day
One of the most interesting mosaic discoveries in recent years occurred at Huqoq in northern Israel. During archaeological excavations in 2011, a team headed by Professor Jodi Magness of the University of North Carolina discovered the wall of a fifth-century synagogue.

In 2012, they uncovered a portion of the synagogue's mosaic floor, depicting Samson setting Philistine fields ablaze with foxes whose tails had been set alight. In 2013, the team found a section showing Samson carrying away the gates of Gaza.

In 2014, however, the team was astonished to discover a floor decorated with a non-biblical scene. And it featured, of all things, a group of elephants.

Greek figures in the new section of floor include a king leading a bull by the horns, backed by soldiers and war elephants. As Magness noted, "Elephants do not occur in the Hebrew Bible. There are no stories that involve elephants, so as soon as we had a story that showed elephants, it was clear that it was not a biblical story."

There are two theories as to what the scene might represent. Some believe that it may be a meeting between Alexander the Great and a Jewish high priest. Others think it shows the Maccabees facing off against the Seleucid Greeks in the wars commemorated by Hanukkah. 

The elephant tableau is currently being prepared for publication, and it has yet to be publicly revealed in its entirety. To read more, click here.

One of the war elephants depicted on the floor of the synagogue at Huqoq,
fifth century A.D.
Source: Times of Israel

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