How the art and craft of marble carving, cutting and printing comes together in a spectacular mural. Photography by Giannis Drakoulidis
The linking of ‘Greece’ and ‘marble’ in the same sentence inevitably calls to mind images of great temples and classical sculpture. The Athens-based practice Point Supreme, however, has set out to defy such dusty associations with its Marble Mural, a large-scale decorative stone screen that integrates a medley of images and textures with a mixture of techniques both ancient and digital. As the piece’s Greek inscription translates: ‘Marble is not simply the clean and base material that we are used to seeing, but it is a rich, dense, live mass that conceals and reveals narratives, stands up, creates space and transforms itself into a work of art.’
Unveiling the mural at the Interior Design Show 2010 in Athens, the practice collaborated with a team of artists, specialist craftsmen and digital fabricators to create a rich palimpsest of artistic processes. The mural is 10m x 2m and comprises seven pieces of marble, all 30mm thick and supported on a steel frame.
Each piece is coloured by a different hue, texture and origin, the characteristics of which have informed the imagery applied to the panel. An elephant has been printed on to the rough Indian marble, while a topographical map enfolds the marble with dark parallel veins from Athens. ‘We never specified what the end product would look like,’ says Point Supreme’s Konstantinos Pantazis. ‘We let the process guide us.’
After the basic shape of the mural had been produced, apertures were water-cut to add transparency. These openings were based on the geometrical proportions and symbols that were native to the country from which each piece of marble had originated - India, Brazil, Morocco and Greece. Imagery was also CNC machined, engraved and digitally printed on to the material.
Since the marble was relatively thin, disruptions to its surface were limited to a depth of 15mm. The final layers of the mural were created by a sculptor and then a painter, who was given the freest rein by the architects.
Despite performing material tests and even making a 1:1 paper mock-up, ‘it was impossible to fully understand the visual or physical effect that each layer would have on the next,’ explains Pantazis. From conception to completion, the whole piece took just three months of intensive work and cost €40,000 to make.
Perhaps the title ‘mural’ is misleading because it alludes to a condition where surface is secondary to the applied medium. Yet Point Supreme has used marble centrally in an exhaustive process as the generator of its art - a methodology more akin to sculpture.
Herein lies the beauty of the project and the skill of this young practice: it has taken one of the most steadfast materials of the architectural palette and rediscovered its potential through a process of playful experimentation fused with a great respect for the culture of marble craftsmanship and trade still alive in Greece today.