Whilst travelling to Budapest last summer I stopped off at the local museum to have a quick look at a new exhibition.
We had seen the posters advertising it and they looked fantastic but we had no idea just how fabulous it would be and how because of it 102 Faces would change direction a bit and go down a whole new avenue!
Inside were probably 40 or 50 ancient burial masks, all hanging suspended in the air and me being a faces kind of girl began to hyperventilate!
I was absolutely fascinated. I couldn't believe my luck! Some were photographs as very few of these amazing masks have survived and they are very precious.
The masks would cover the faces of the dead, made from wet clay that stiffened after drying and became a kind of mask.
Later they were made out of metal, clay, plaster, leather and other materials. It is thought that these masks served as a border between life and death. They were keen to preserve the faces of the dead and right after death in some cases the faces were covered by birchbark or leather, the eyes and mouth covered with a piece of textile or leather with openings cut into them over the eyes and mouth. The death mask is then made out of two or three layers of wet finely ground plaster (more rarely clay).
These were fixed so well to the leather that later archaeologists broke them trying to remove them from he dead.
Artists then painted the mask, men in bright colours - scarlet with bright blue, black and green. The women's masks were left white, covered with bright blue, red or black patterns. The women had spirals painted onto the forehead which is said to be the representation of the journey made of the dead persons soul moving to the other world.
The masks I saw were from three different peoples: The Iron Age inhabitants of the Minusinsk Basin, of the Medieval people of the Ural-Kama region and the ancient Hungarians.
I can't give you all the history here but what I decided was to have a go myself and try to create my own masks using clay and exploring some techniques I hadn't tried before to capture the beauty of them.
I loved the results, and enjoyed my time with Loughborough artist Jennie McCall who is attempting (very patiently I might add) to teach me about clay work and glazes, gold lustre and how to glue stuff back together after a few disasters!
Sculpture is on the list and I am completing some clay busts to add to the masks very soon. Exciting stuff!
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