Pebble mosaics are the speciality of Gabriele Gelatti. They are also known as risseu, which is the Genoese term for the rounded pebbles dragged by the current of a stream or the surf of the beach. “The technique of pebble mosaics is very specific and differs considerably from that of the more well-known tesserae mosaic, which developed much later,” explains Gabriele. “In our work we aim to recover the historic techniques while experimenting with new materials and applications.” Gabriele was trained by Armando Porta, the last Ligurian master of this ancient craft. “Maestro Porta taught me the rudiments of my profession, which I put to profit for the first time with the creation, in 2001, of a risseu garden for the 10th Festival des Jardins of Chaumont-sur-Loire.”Read the full interview
A lot of culture, both material and immaterial, converges in the pebble mosaic. It is one of the oldest arts in humanity, still little explored and known. What I find exceptional about it is that it allows you to compose constructive masterpieces with humble elements supplied by nature.How important are its ties to the local territory?
Very! First, the pebble mosaic is an incredibly detailed description of Liguria’s natural environment, entirely made of stone and sea. Second, the history of the local tradition describes part of the Ligurian genius loci and of its historical capital Genoa.
There is a lot of preparatory work behind it, but when everything finally comes to the actual laying of the stones, you reach a state of ecstasy. The laying of the pebbles is a very meticulous job, which requires a concentration that borders on meditation!What is the most memorable moment of your career?
In 2018, I was involved in the restoration of the masterpiece in the Palazzo Reale in Genoa. This mosaic had been ingeniously rebuilt pebble by pebble by my master Armando Porta. Having the great honour of contributing to its maintenance was a kind of consecration and a posthumous gift from my master.