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Spier Architectural Arts

Art on a Grand Scale – Unveiling The Dying Slave by Marco Cianfanelli

The recent unveiling of a three-dimensional artwork, The Dying Slave by Marco Cianfanelli marked the first outdoor, three-dimensional piece produced by the Spier Architectural Arts studio. Located at the junction of two prominent pedestrian footpaths at the Spier Estate in Stellenbosch, the site specific artwork is visible as one approaches from either direction and lures visitors from the estate to the Spier Hotel, and vice versa.

Cianfanelli based the design of the artwork on Michelangelo’s well-known figure of a male slave in the ecstatic throes of dying. Mirror images of The Dying Slave are installed back-to-back, one a ‘positive’ image and the other a ‘negative’ or photographic inversion of the same image.

Mosaic was an appropriate choice of medium to interpret the design into because of its durability and the monumental scale in which designs can be realised. The large-scale mosaic artwork is divided into nine columns and when seen from a specific vantage point, the columns line up revealing the complete image of The Dying Slave. Measuring 4,2 metres in height, the work has a strong graphic impact similar to a billboard in the landscape and the staggered placement of the columns invites visitors to interact and circulate through the artwork.

Spier Architectural Arts carefully oversaw every step of the artistic and construction process, from design development, choosing materials and a suitable mosaic style to translate the design into stone, right through to the detailing of the structural work, to ensure the integrity of the design is honoured and realized to its full creative capacity. Production took place in their Cape Town based studio, where 10 mosaic artists worked for 5 months, tallying 998 hours to complete the work.

Marco Cianfanelli is equally pleased about the creative collaboration and says:

“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"

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