Murals and mosaics are two media in which art literally becomes part of the architectural surface. This large-scale panoramic art has the power to transport you to another place. We've all had the experience of being in a space that takes us into a different world. I immediately think about amusement parks and historical sites. I have visited several places where art had this awe-inspiring effect on me. Giotto's paintings in the Arena Chapel in Padua, Italy is one of them. The Arena Chapel is an example of the great tradition of Italian fresco painting, a method in which the paint is applied directly onto wet stucco and becomes part of the wall itself. I studied the Arena Chapel in graduate school before seeing it in person. Needless to say, I was able to fully appreciate it, but the experience was more emotional than analytical. I lost myself in the scale, vivid colors, and rhythm of the paintings.
Giotto. Frescoes in the Arena Chapel. 1305-1306. Padua, Italy. http://kids.britannica.com/students/assembly/view/187405. Photo: A. Dagli Orti/DeA Picture Library
St. Mark's Basilica in Venice produced a similar emotional reaction. The majority of the large interior of St. Mark's is covered in mosaics of marble, glass, and gold leaf, depending on the surface. The space is large and the light varies as you move throughout the space. The light is reflected against the small irregular mosaic surface, and it feels as if you have been transported inside a large piece of jewelry.
Mosaics in the Basilica di San Marco, Venice, Italy. 11th-13th centuries. https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9410131 Photo: Tango 7147 – Own work
More contemporary residential and restaurant interiors with murals also create ambient spaces. Because murals are usually grand in scale and are meant to provide long-term decoration to compliment the architecture, there is a greater deal of thought and intention required of the client and designer before selecting a mural artist. This is quite different from an artist creating a smaller work of art to be displayed in a variety of settings. Murals are more permanent and inherently involve in-depth planning and clear communication with the artist to be considered a success by both the artist and client.
Scott Waterman, Study for Mural as seen on the artist's website. http://www.scottwatermanartist.com/port21_wadmalaw.html Photo: Scott Waterman
Scott Waterman, Mural, Private Residence in South Carolina. Architecture by Glenn Keyes. Interior Design by Amelia Handgun. http://www.scottwatermanartist.com/port21_wadmalaw.html Photo: Scott Waterman
Scott Waterman's mural for a South Carolina residence sets a tranquil tone for this home. Waterman's website is a fantastic showcase of not only his murals but also the process involved to create murals that work in harmony with the architecture.
The bar space and reception at Le Coucou. Interior Design by Roman and Williams. Mural by artist Dean Barger. https://www.architecturaldigest.com/story/roman-and-williams-le-coucou-restaurant-soho Photo: Ditte Isager
The mural in the bar and reception area of New York City's Le Coucou restaurant is another great example of mural magic. The natural elements and rich color palette of the mural set the tone for the smart space and add a sense of history and mystery. I hope to visit Le Coucou on my next trip to New York to experience this mural and the wonderful food.