Emma Biggs got her start with mosaics in the 1980s after looking up the word in the Yellow Pages. Through a television program, she’d discovered that there were still descendants of Italian artisans who’d arrived in Great Britain in the late 19th century, living and working in London.
“A mosaicist gave me a job cleaning his house,” she says. “That’s how I got started.”
She’d already studied Fine Arts at Leeds University, worked as an assistant to Vivienne Westwood, even ran a tour management company for rock bands – but piffle!
“Once I started making mosaics, I felt I had found what I wanted to do,” she says.
Today, she is one of the foremost mosaic artists in the world. Her husband, Matthew Collings, is an art critic, writer and broadcaster who’s hosted a number of BBC programs, including the very popular “This is Modern Art.” Together they make collaborative paintings – and recently opened a new exhibit at the Vigo Gallery in London. Their paintings are based on photographs they take of surface details like doors and fenestration – but they look to Biggs’s work in mosaics as well.
“Our work has run alongside my mosaic career, and his career as a critic and broadcaster,” she says. “Our work together has increased in significance for both of us, and we spend much more time working together than we used to.”
Gradually, their roles have become formalized. Biggs designs the paintings, choosing and amending color and tone; while she’s doing that, Collings is painting them. The couple may argue, but not about their roles within their paintings
In her mosaics, Biggs uses no single palette, but instead relies on the unexpected. “In any palette I may use, what I value is surprise,” she says. “Surprise can be more subtle than you might think.”
Uncertainty also plays a role. “I don’t want them to be entirely readable at first glance,” she says. “But I try to create a balance between comprehensibility, and the sort of pleasurable confusion that keeps you looking.”
And, it works.
For more on Emma Biggs, go to http://www.emmabiggsmosaic.net/index.html
For more on Biggs and Collings, go to http://www.emmabiggsandmatthewcollings.net/
To see their work at the Vigo Gallery, go to http://www.vigogallery.com/