People’s Choice award a vindication of mosaic art


Photo: Mahara Gallery Director Janet Bayly (left) with People’s Choice Award winner, mosaic artist Jane Santos (right).

Waikanae artist Jane Santos sees her success in the Mahara Gallery Art Review’s, People’s Choice Award, as a vindication of the mosaic art she has pioneered in New Zealand.


The award for her mosaic, Te Aro Cameo, was decided by the votes of visitors to the Review exhibition in the Gallery. It was the last of seven awards made to artists who took part in Mahara Gallery’s biennial Mahara Arts Review.

“I was both surprised and delighted with the award,” she said. “There is no critic so merciless as the general public.

“The subject clearly touches people and the medium is recognized as being full of wonder and appreciation.

“This is important because mosaic art has not always been seen as worthy or desirable as painting and sculpture.”

Jane Santos started making mosaics in England. She came to New Zealand in 2002 to work full-time in the medium and found that the old villas and bungalows lent themselves being captured by artists.

She says that although she is attracted by other subjects such as flora and fauna, she is drawn back buildings and cityscapes. To date she has completed more than 90 panels of different sizes and compositions.

“The old villas and bungalows with their wrap-around porches, lacy mouldings and their colours jump out and delight you.

“My subjects come from all over Wellington but in particular Te Aro, Thorndon, Berhampore and Mt Victoria. The houses are as authentic as I can make them but the settings are my own.”

Jane Santos says she likes detailed cutting work. Early in her career in England, her primary medium was fabric and threads and she achieved success exhibiting in London through the Embroiders’ Guild.

“Mosaics seem to use the skills I developed to good effect in my cityscapes,” she said. “I use hand-cut French porcelain, ceramic and glass tiles.

“In some small way, I am preserving the history of Wellington which may disappear in future years.”

Jane Santos describes herself as “self-taught” but being descended from a line of painters and artistic forebears. She has degrees in science and
education. During her years teaching young children she promoted and nurtured learning through art.

“In my past artistic journey I was very occupied by miniatures. I did a whole series of miniature historical costumes ranging from the Norman Conquest to the present day.”

In the 1990s, inspired by English mosaic artists like Emma Biggs and Tessa Hunkin, she swapped fabric for tiles and has never looked back.

Jane Santos has a gallery of her own in her home. She exhibits widely, both in New Zealand and abroad.

The People’s Choice Award was sponsored by Kāpiti Coffee Company.