Mosaic of Marks, Words, Material

"Mosaic of Marks, Words, Material" is an exhibition-atelier that tells the story of research done in Reggio Emilia’s infant-toddler centres and preschools on the theme of mark making and drawing woven with narrative.   

Children can experience their relationship with nature and the things of nature with loving intensity. An intensity reflected in their representations and even in their gestures.

Loris Malaguzzi

Mosaic of Marks, Words, Material is an exhibition-atelier that brings together children’s works and processes on the theme of drawing and narrative in Reggio Emilia’s municipal infant-toddler centres and preschools. The intent is to better understand the poetic fabric weaving together drawings and words, and convey the cognitive and expressive richness children generate.

Words, marks and materials for the eyes, for reading, looking, listening and touching. For children words and drawing – although autonomous languages – almost always stand side by side, weaving together to form an intelligent and poetic mosaic.

The project has a dual objective:

deeper exploration of how drawing and materials are informed by words and mental imagery, and of how words and mental imagery are informed by the senses and perceptions (visual, tactile, sound, physical); 

to be vigilant and attentive so that in the daily life of the school the quality of learning, the sensory perceptions and imaginaries, which manual tools offer to children and adults, do not become impoverished or lost.



From Mosaic of Marks, Words, Material exhibition catalogue 


"What is presented here is a light exhibition, dangerously light, because to short-sighted eyes it might appear very ordinary, already seen, already done. Instead these interesting works speak of and confirm hypotheses we might hazard to call anthropological in that, with surprising clarity, the children’s works and processes convey some of the fundamental senses and perceptions of our species. There is a sensitivity towards sensory stimulus which is immediate and fluid, that goes from touch to sound to sight in highly receptive and resonant ways, constructing mental images and nonchalantly joining up with verbal language. There is a sort of sensory synaesthesia, an igniting of the imagination, where senses ‘become more vigorous and dissolve out from one another’, necessary to one another because they take on meaning through their union.    

It is not simple to comment on material created by children, we are aware we run the risk of once again separating the visual and the linguistic, the exploring, listening, speaking hands from words that see and sense. In the texts, if we appear to favour one aspect over another, it is only because we are looking for a deeper understanding of certain areas in children’s explorations and expression: in the apparent separation of languages – sensory and verbal – our effort is always to hold the ensemble together, aware that if we manage this, we can increase the connections between different parts, extend our gaze, and gain a deeper understanding of the work done.

The presentation of the exhibition, and the texts that follow, confirm the importance and beauty of the language of marks and drawing, the richness it gives to the minds, eyes and senses that we use to relate with the exterior world. For it would be difficult not to laud the cognitive and imaginative qualities this language bestows on those who frequent it and explore it assiduously in participatory ways. Fortunately in our infant-toddler centre and preschools we draw, but projects like this (and others before it), which take marks and drawing as their subject, are useful for our awareness not to be diminished or dimmed of the importance of the processes we go through in arriving at the final drawn product. We will never tire of repeating how precious the intelligence and creativity we can make out and discover in the drawing process is for allowing us to know, appreciate and hold in estimation all authors, for letting us understand how rich a language of this kind is. A language too often vilified in the general school culture. We do not wish to insist, but there so many examples of daily lives where the negative repercussions on children and adults stemming from careless and standardised visual culture are underestimated, and how much this robs children of learning possibilities."

Vea Vecchi, atelierista

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