Catholic Life

Mosaicist unveils new work

Artist Tessa Hunkin puts a finishing touch to the mosaic (Photo: Hackney Council)

A mosaic artist who spent 10 years decorating Westminster Cathedral has unveiled a new work made by people recovering from drug abuse and mental health problems.

Tessa Hunkin, one of Britain’s leading mosaicists, oversaw the creation of the mosaic over eight months. The work, entitled History in the Making, was installed in Shepherdess Walk Park, Hackney, last month.

Commissioned by Hackney Council, the mosaic is intended to commemorate the Olympics while at the same time brightening up a disused corner of the park. It depicts sporting and park scenes in a Roman style.

Ms Hunkin came up with the project after completing a number of commissions with a team of people recovering from mental health problems. Mosaic-making, she said, has “huge therapeutic value”.

She said: “If your mind is in turmoil and you’re worrying about things, it’s a way of having a little holiday from that. It takes over your mind.”

From a distance, the 200 square feet mosaic, populated by trees, birds and elegant figures, looks like it was made by the Romans. Up close, modern details, such as a smartphone, frisbee or leaf-blowing machine, peep out.

Albert Betriu, from Perpignan, one of the mosaic makers, said art therapy could often be like “a three-year-old’s class, playing with Playdo and not really achieving anything”, whereas making the mosaic, he said, had “been more professional”. His mother, visiting from France, made some of the mosaic, too, he said. “I thought I didn’t have patience, man, and I do.”

Nicola O’Grady said the project had give her “a feeling of accomplishment and belonging that I haven’t had for a long time. I have something to be proud of that I can share with my friends and family.”

Cllr Jonathan McShane, Hackney Council’s cabinet member for health, social care and culture, said: “The mosaic is amazing and will tell the story of Hackney in 2012 for years to come. Everyone involved should be very proud of what they have achieved.”