At a glance, the incredible ephemeral mosaics by English artist Justin Bateman do not appear to be in passing. The artist, who goes by the nom de plume Pebble Picasso, arranges pebbles and rocks that he encounters in such a way that they result in faithful portraits. From train stations and beaches to car parks and forests – Bateman’s fleeting land art, the pebble art, can be found anywhere and everywhere.
The ‘project’ started in Thailand where, hoping to stay for merely a week, the artist was forced to take a nest for 10 months because of a lockdown. He started going to places rich with rocks and pebbles, collecting them, sorting them by their hue and arranging them in patterns that developed into portraits. Portraits of everyday faces and of recreations of legendary works.
Occupying an area of 1 sq. m to 10 sq. m, the pebble art by Justin Bateman can take anywhere between a few hours to a few weeks to create, depending on how much the rocks cooperate. This, when they can neither be sold and are bound to be demolished either by nature or man, must surely take some integrity and courage?
Bateman says that this transitory nature is important to him. Being site specific, these pebble art arrangements are not meant to last.
This allows the artist to swiftly walk away, without leaving a mark. Justin Bateman likes the natural environment, and that is how he leaves it when he disperses the stones.
Over the time, Bateman has created a number of portraits using pebble arrangements. He proceeds thus: finding the pebbles, planning the subject that has to be portrayed, locating the apt environment where the artwork will be displayed to be discovered by a few, spending hours and days and weeks in the making, finally photographing the result and then dispersing the stones. For subject matter and theme, Bateman finds inspiration in social, cultural and religious matters, as well as in classical paintings.
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