About the author. Official photo

 

Andrey Lvovith MANDJOS

 

«ENAMEL MOSAIC of ANDREY MANDJOS»

It neither stones, nor beads, smalt! Mosaics, made up of a great number of tiny brass strips covered with multicolored enamel, is the author's invention ( International Patent of the Russian Federation ¹ 2.213.667 ). Moscow enameller Andrey Mandjos is the author of the new method that employs classical mosaics and enamel. Despite century-old traditions of mosaics and enamel techniques this new method has no equal. The author makes use of hot enamel and manufactures mosaic panels, pictures, portraits, sculptures, jewelry, Easter eggs, family monograms, interior pieces, furniture pieces, articles of religious and everyday life, and decorates  interiors of expensive automobiles and yachts. Andrey Mandjos is the first world enameller and master of mosaics nominated repeatedly as world record-breaker in decorative art and the author of the ENAMEL ROOM project. 

Andrey Mandjos was born in Moscow in 1959. He graduated from the Stroganov Art School in 1984. Andrey Mandjos is a member of International Art Fund. He started exhibiting his works in 2001. Since then he has had dozens of oneman shows, has given a lot of interviews and has been awarded with the For Contribution in Russian Culture awards and cited in the official acknowledgement of the President of the Russian Federation.

 

So what prompted me to embark on the art of mosaic?

       Perhaps it was my unceasing dissatisfaction with life, a longing for something more than the miserable routine of a public  servant. And where can a creative person express himself, in order to experience beautiful things, to achieve something great? This is only possible in the field of art. As a schoolboy and later on when I pursued my career as a law-enforcement officer, I embarked on a routine of various decorative jobs in order to enjoy being creative even if only for a few hours. I wonder what the outcome would have been if by chance I had not begun my studies at the Stroganov School? As I continued my career of police investigator, I learned there how to create various types of designs and decorate exhibition stands. I was looking forward to graduate as professional artist and make cinema posters after I retired. But one day I came across a book on the art of M.V. Lomonosov, the contents of which sprouted, as a grain in fertile soil, my longstanding love for the contemplation of mosaic artwork. Being inspired by the principles of life and by the splendor of the mosaic masterpieces of that great Russian enlightener, I was determined to follow his example in making mosaics. For a few years, I sketched  up my future mosaic panels, ordered tools for cutting smalt and collected waste material in the backyard of a mosaics factory. Time passed by but I still did not put my ideas into practice because I was well aware of the poor quality of my amateur output compared to professional level of mosaic makers decorating metro stations and Orthodox churches. I was upset by the miniature scale of the mosaic icon of Theodore Stratilates exhibited in the Hermitage, much smaller than my sketch was. My material was not good enough for such fine work, nor did I have any gold smalt; of course I would not snatch it from Moscow metro as a friend of mine used to do! This was the end of my initial engagement with mosaic, and in the late 1980s I began my home business of breeding Persian cats. It was the only chance for me to make money in a fair way and escape the emerging commercialization of relationships among police officers. All year I had to take work as a cleaner, washing floors and office toilets in order to repay the money I owed for my first kittens; they grew up and earned me some profit. Being financially independent underpinned my quest for self-realization; it’s good to have your hobby sheltered from such burdens as no bread on the table or no home for your family.  There are artists who hope to sell some examples of their trial artwork, go in search of orders, join unions, and work as decorators for major companies. They think that good earnings will give them the real freedom they need for artistic expression. But actually they will produce nothing because from the very beginning they adapted their art to general requirements, while their own art remained undeveloped; they did not invent their own technique, nor did they create a genre of their own. I was no artist but I did not forget about art and having ‘killed off’ the idea of starting as a  mosaic artist, I found another way out, that is, to begin making something more compact, practical and valuable; so I dedicated myself to miniature artwork. I was attracted by the cloisonné enamel medallions embellishing the crowns of Byzantine emperors on display at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. How about making something similar, I thought? The art of enamel is an ancient craft for the production of luxury items, which may be likened to making jewellery and is considered to be the most arduous and difficult; it inspired me because of the brightness and durability of its colors.  So I dedicated myself to working as an enamel melter for a few years thereafter. I did not have any muffle kiln, so I made my first samples in the house of a guy whom I had prosecuted earlier for making fire arms at home but with whom I had maintained honest and fair, man-to-man relationships. Nobody showed me anything and I learned the entire process of hot enameling from scratch by intuition. Having developed my palette of enamel paints, I cut hundreds of copper plates and created a large table of samples, having arranged solid colors vertically and horizontally, while all other boxes were filled with mixed colors. Perhaps no other enameller has ever studied this process so thoroughly and tried to master such variety of combined color effects. But I would mix everything randomly, burn dead and underbaked samples, while experimenting with various metals and the influence of their thickness on the quality of the bake.  

In mid 1990s, I organized a patriotic museum in the basement of an ordinary high school and started a group of enamel lovers there, thus having secured for myself an access to the school’s muffle kiln and a room for my experiments. My first works were flawed because I used random colors instead of arranging them according to the closeness of their temperature characteristics as other artists did. Enamels behaved like salt with pepper; many colors failed to stick close to others, and every bake ended up with overbaked and underbaked works, so all my extravagant attempts to play with this complex technology that shaped over centuries, resulted only in a poor-quality output and almost all of my samples were never finished. I was about to be disillusioned again but this time it was the art of decorative cloisonné enamel. Once, having visited a festival of enamel art, I was amazed by the fact that only a few pieces made by modern enamellers had rare cloisonnés. In other words, I tried slavishly to make something exceedingly intricate! Nobody went in the trouble of making hundreds of cloisonnés in one piece; nobody had somehow bothered to broaden the range of classical enamel colors. Even the most luxuriously embellished icon frames displayed in museums rarely use more than 5 or 6 shades of color baked together. Sooner or later all this was bound to give me an idea of making it all the way round, i.e. not to put and treat them together but rather separate everything.

Finally, the last year before my retirement, 1995, arrived. I continued to increase the variety of my palette and baked together conflicting enamels in one run. It was a historical dead end; I pounded against the wall trying to find a door there, but there was no door whatsoever. When baking another medallion I again did not arrange the enamels according to their temperature characteristics, and once more the brown enamel burnt out, the yellow one produced spots, and the turquoise one in the background melted badly. The addition of paint and repeated baking also did not work. Frustrated, I put the piece aside … And while I gazed at this poor medallion, which looked so glistening and beautiful from a distance and completely flawed in close up, I got an idea – how about making everything like mosaic, in other words, bake the paints separately and put them together after they have cooled down? I rushed to put this idea to the test; I cut dozens of copper plates, straightened, treated and covered each with a separate enamel paint; then picked the plates with tweezers and put them to the grid to dry out and finally baked the plates in the kiln. The output was a few small enamel fragments, sort of tiny polychrome dice. Full of enthusiasm, I did not leave the school until late at night I managed to make a few samples of each color. At home I put these colored beads on the table and began to arrange them into decorative compositions, which I liked right away; I was bound to love them! This is how I discovered a totally new art technique and without delay I called it as Enamel Mosaic being ignorant of the fact that this term never has been used throughout the history of culture. I just began doing my work, which spontaneously appeared to be exceedingly enjoyable and so exciting that it simply took my breath away. 

The next fifteen years were dedicated to making my collection. Many thrilling events and encounters took place during this time. I received an International Patent from the Russian Federation for my invention plus various insignia and diplomas; I participated in many exhibitions including personal art shows, created prizes for winners of jewelry shows and an icon for the family of the Russian President; I also received hundreds of comments from foreign artists and even made a number of world records in the field of applied arts and set up my representative offices in various countries. The press wrote about me in articles, they featured me in TV reports and documentaries, invited me to all sorts of talk shows; some dedicated poems, songs and musical videos to me. Enamel mosaic brought to life plenty of projects and new mosaic applications  which no one else has ever used before. Then it was the turn of art critics and art dealers to appraise my artwork, while my task was to go on doing my best and work, work, work. I need to go ahead of time to give a chance not only to new generations but also to those who live today to enjoy fully the beauty of this new art. I am sure that having seen it they will not only get an exciting artistic experience but will also be impressed that their contemporary made it… And my dream is to establish the first School of Enamel Mosaic, to tour many countries with the Memorial Globe made by me in honor of all victims of the World War II so that anyone could put into this Globe his or her drop of mosaic enamel for one thousand of those who lost their lives; and more importantly, I look forward to implementing the project of my life, the Enamel Room or rather, Enamel Chambers with multicolored halls, in which not only walls and ceilings but even all exhibits will be made of hot enamel, and enamel mosaic; and I have already created some fragments for this museum. These are my dreams … You can read about them and much more in my book to be published soon; I hope it will be enjoyed by my readers and passionate admirers of my art.        

Andrey Lvovich Mandjos,

Enameller - Mosaicer

Moscow, 2010 

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