Who said tiles were just for making your bathroom or kitchen look nice? Pieces made in my beloved home city of Stoke-on-Trent will be taking centre stage at a new art exhibition launching in Liverpool this week. Two little-known artists - professional tiler Allan Butt and art enthusiast Rita Gav - have basically immortalised some of the biggest stars from stage, screen, music and sports in mosaic form, with the pieces being given their first ever public viewing at the city's View Two Gallery. You can expect to see unique depictions of iconic figures such as John Lennon, Mick Jagger, Jimmy Hendrix, Madonna and Johhny Depp.
Each mosaic uses at least 2,000 pieces of tiles, with the original materials supplied by Johnson Tiles. Experienced tradesman Allan spends his days tiling kitchens and bathrooms then in the evening he heads to a shed at the bottom of his garden to create his unique artwork in partnership with his artist friend Rita. After their work became a hit with friends and family, they won a commission to create an oriental mosaic for a company in London, and later agreed on the plan to create a collection of mosaics of famous people.
Allan said he first became interested in mosaics as a teenager and his passion was further fuelled when he became a tiling apprentice. A career as a self-employed tiler followed – with a break to manage Yorkshire band Vanishing Point in the middle – and he drew plenty of inspiration from mosaic artists around the world, particularly Gaudi.
“On my travels to Italy, Greece and especially Barcelona where I became a great admirer of the work of the Catalonian architect and artist Antoni Gaudi, I became fascinated by mosaics,” Allan explained. “I marvelled at the skills of artisans who had worked with pieces of tiles over 2,000 years ago. The earliest forms go back even further. When I visited the old Roman Baths I was blown away.”
His creative partner Rita said they were both excited to get the chance for their own mosaics to be seen by the public and continue the long-established tradition of creating art with tiles.
“We hope we are bringing the ancient art of mosaics into the 21st century,” she said.
Allan added he had found the ideal match for creating their work when he came across the products available from Johnson Tiles.
“They are perfect for what we do and come in some fantastic shades and colours,” he said. “I don't even think the company is aware of the part their tiles have played in our lives."
The mosaic exhibition will be held at View Two Gallery in Liverpool, opening on October 4, and running on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays throughout October.