Fabian Scaunich is a Maestro Mosaicista (qualified mosaic artisan), the only one to have this distinct title in Australia. With his unique qualifications he founded Mosaic Republic — a boutique artisan gallery/studio specialising in the creation of authentic mosaic art. With each design, Fabian and his team are encouraging people to rethink their preconceptions of mosaics.
Why mosaics? What attracted you to this art form?
My parents are both Italian and immigrated to Australia in the 50s. I’ve always had a strong connection to all things Italian and, having spent many years holidaying, studying and working in Italy, mosaics have become a link to my Italian heritage. Also, I like the permanence of mosaics. I once witnessed the unearthing of a 2000 year old mosaic in Aquileia. The colours and condition of it were exceptional. I always imagine the story behind these creations. Who made them, what was the intention or symbolism behind them.
What are you currently inspired by?
Currently my works tend to explore the textural and tactile aspects of mosaic. I like the way light can interact with different materials and different angulations of ‘tesserae’ (individual units that make up the mosaic) to create light/shadow and how these can be used to create depth and lines.
You mention you’d like people to rethink their beliefs and perceptions of what a mosaic is and can be. What’s a common misconception you often come by?
We’re not surrounded by the history of mosaics in Australia, so many people identify mosaic as the ‘Trencadis style’. This is a type of mosaic used in Catalan Modernism, it’s created from broken tile shards, pieces of ceramic and dinnerware, and was famously used by Antoni Gaudi. However, in Italy, France, Spain, Turkey, Mexico and Russia, each area has its own distinct style/technique. I wish to show the varied forms/styles of mosaic and its many applications in today’s context.
What is the best thing about your job?
I feel very privileged when given a commission as the mosaics will last for generations. For this reason, I consider it a ‘snapshot in time’ that I’m locking into a mosaic. Often the stories linked to the work are very private and personal.
“I’m not a fan of the disposable society
we live in today, I prefer quality, craftsmanship and timelessness – a trait all good mosaics have.” – Fabian Scaunich
Describe your work space?
Currently, I work in two studios. One is in the middle of my mosaic gallery! It’s clean and organised and I draw inspiration from the works hanging around me. My other studio is more like a workshop where I can get down and dirty and play with cement, rocks and glass. I tend to always have music, but often when I mosaic, it’s like meditation for me and I tend to lose track of time and my surrounds.
What has been your favourite project to work on and why?
Given that it takes a good deal of time to develop, plan and complete a mosaic, it’s difficult not to get attached to them all! I did some restoration work on a mosaic that dated back to the early 1930s – just before WW2. I couldn’t help thinking about the artisans who made that mosaic – what motivated them to make this beautiful floor piece given that war was around the corner. It was nice to be able to restore this mosaic and lock in a little piece of my story (even though you cannot notice it, of course!)
What is the most important piece of advice you were given during your mosaic studies in Italy?
I received a plethora of advice, tips, rules etc, but I find the one that constantly serves me well is to ‘keep it simple’. There are so many options/possibilities available to you when planning a mosaic and often people get carried away and want to add a million effects, materials, symbolism, etc.
What would be your dream project?
To make a mosaic the way Romans did. Their mosaic was originally planned (as flooring back then) at the time of designing a building. I’d like to work with an architect/designer and incorporate mosaic into the fundamental of a building design. This has been done in few buildings in modern times and the results have been outstanding. Such buildings have become iconic structures, namely Antoni Gaudi’s Hundterwasser, Santiago Calatrava.