The Dying Slave (2012)

4 March, 2013

In the wake of the completion of his acclaimed sculpture of Nelson Mandela, a new work by Marco Cianfanelli was installed at Spier wine farm in August 2012. Like the Madiba piece, this work features columns that together create the completed picture. Nine columns measuring 4.1 metres in height cover an installation area of almost 30 square metres, and together form the image of the 'The Dying Slave'. The work was created in mosaic by artists from Spier Arts Academy and marked the first outdoor, three-dimensional piece produced by the studio.

The artwork is located at the junction of two prominent pedestrian axes on the Spier farm, between the Spier Hotel and the Conference Centre. The sculpture is visible if approached from either direction, and, with mosaic on both sides of the columns, each approach offers a unique experience. When seen from a distance all the columns line up and the image of the artwork is formed. The viewer can also circulate through the installation and be 'submerged' within the sculpture. It is based on Michaelangelo' s image of a dying slave – a male figure in the ecstatic throes of dying. Cianfanelli had a vision to create the image from mosaic because of the medium' s ability to create large-scale work, and in order to explore the pixilation effect of mosaic. The design for the mosaic was done digitally by Cianfanelli, using a photographic source. The image was 'digitised' into lines of 'pixels' , which was then interpreted by the mosaic studio. Mosaic panels were placed on both sides of the columns, with one side of the column featuring a 'positive' image and the other a 'negative' (inversion) of the same image.

"Initially, I was concerned that the roughness of stone mosaic used would not be conducive to achieving a slick digital effect, even from a distance," said Cianfanelli. "After seeing the first sample created by the studio, I realised that my concerns were unwarranted and, in fact, the richness of texture and the intense colour of glass added an incredible dimension that made perfect sense with the concept.

"It has been a privilege and a treat to have my design translated into the traditional craft of detailed stone and glass mosaic on a massive scale. Having made many large mosaics during my career, I really appreciate the work and challenges involved, as well as the potential for incorporating mosaic into contemporary art and design."

Interesting facts - this is what it took to build a 42.6 square metre mosaic artwork:

Further Resources