“Jean Pierre Soalhat creates a link between our past and our present, personified in his creations that carry on the craft of antiquity. The same materials, the same love, the same simplicity, these marks added after centuries or thousand of years revive the object, transform it, continue it, and begin its new life. This vigorous and unyielding expression reconnects us to our past.” Yann Souriau
Jean-Pierre lives in Provence, in the mountaintop village of Caseneuve in front of the Luberon where time seems to have stopped with the Roman General Marius and his Legions as they marched across Roman Gaul in 269 AD. It is in his tiny village, Caseneuve, that he creates his wall pieces, tabletops, and emblemata (small tables made of antique waxed wood). Inspiration comes from antique and mythological themes : natures’s cycle and the gods about her, the myths and the creatures that idealize her, with a special preference for portraits.
Jean-Pierre’s creations are just as much treasures from the past as they are contemporary artworks. “Yesterday, as I was cutting through some broken remains of marble that originated from a church of the time of the French Revolution, my studio was suddenly filled with the intense perfume of incense. This marble, porous and absorbent, was releasing the smells of the past right there for me to relive” recounts the mosaicist.
Jean-Pierre describes his art as collaborative, continuing, interpreting, and transforming the work started by former artisans, sculptors, or builders of times-past. Recently he found the handprints of a Roman potter in one of his broken terracotta jars and he used it, intact, in one of his mosaics. “I have the privilege of making contacts across the centuries” says Jean-Pierre.
About the Process
Jean Pierre works with noble and antique raw materials found in the surrounding ruins of Provence, most more than 2,000 years old. This is what characterizes his creations and makes them so unique and precious. He uses pieces of Roman tile, broken terra cotta jugs, and scatted pieces of antique marble for his work. He cuts the pieces into small reglettes to form the images that become his mosaics. The tools are exactly the same ones used two thousand five hundred years ago: a “tranchet”, a sort of little ax pointing upwards on a board of olive wood and a “marteline”, a kind of hammer with two curved edges.
The creation, unchanged since the Romans times, is a long process cutting of the rough marble, reducing it to morsels, drawing of the illustration whose shadows will express the depth of the piece, positioning of minuscule pieces, pouring of the cement, unmodoling, and finally polished. This is the extensive time it takes for a stone face to come to life.
The technique used to assemble the reglettes into images is similar to the ancient upside-down placement method re-invented by the Italian mosaicist, Facchina, at the end of the 18th century and made famous by the work by Antonio SALVIATI in l’Opéra de Paris. The morsels are cut and placed upside down then the cement is poured over the masterpiece, making the morsels temporarily disappear until it is turned over and the final piece (the prior’s mirror image) is revealed.The only contemporary improvement is the addition of resins and cements that make the pieces weather resistant, and therefore adequate for exteriors, swimming pools, fountains, etc.
JP SOALHAT often says that he talks with his art pieces, and in fact the expression of every face that hangs on the walls of his atelier seems to change upon each visit. His creations are sold all over the world.
Get In Touch
Each mosaic is created through consultation between artist and client so that the needs and the wants of the client can be expressed in each creation.
If you would like a free estimate, or would like to discuss the design and purchase of a mosaic, please contact the artist using one of the following methods. Jean-Piere speaks fluent English and French.