COLOUR CHORD INSTALLATION – 1400 DUPONT

'Colour Chords' was installed in the main space at 1400 Dupont Street in Toronto, and remained in situ for one year (1992).

12 south-facing clerestory windows, each 2’ x 2’, were filled with coloured mouth-blown glass. A multi-storied (west) wall acted as a very large ‘projection screen’.  With its very long open floor area and dramatically framed space, this historic warehouse building (full of artists' studios), offered an extraordinary found space for this experimental work.

On sunny mornings, around 9 am, the 12 squares of coloured glass began their projection course  – the first square appearing as if ‘growing’ from left to right onto the wall...within half an hour all 12 colours were projecting in a long diagonal line across the wall.

The projection then evolved much more slowly...as the sun moved westward and upward in the sky, the coloured squares stretched on the wall as one by one they slid from wall to floor. By noon they formed a line on the floor directly perpendicular to the window plane.

The increasingly slanting parallelograms spent the rest of the afternoon gradually moving eastward along the floor in the grand space. By late afternoon, blurred and weakened, they finally disappeared.

The yearly sun cycle was given heightened visibility by this installation. In wintertime, with low sun angles, projections penetrated deep into the space on the projection wall. At the equinoxes, the line of colour moved down the centre of the floor space. In summer, the high sun angle and deep window ledge allowed only a fine line of projection or obscured it completely.

Spectacular coloured shadows and the varied spread of light on floor surfaces, lighting elements, ceilings, and window ledges were elements of spatial transformation that I studied and photographed during the course of a full year.

For me, this installation served as a working model – a prototype for use of sun cycles in spaces of continuous/long-term inhabitation - capturing the sun’s movement, bringing it into vivid focus for the users/inhabitants of the environment. It was an observatory too…of aspects of light made visible by colour.

 

ASPECTS OF LIGHT – ARTSPACE

Aspects of Light' was a one month long installation at Artspace Gallery, Peterborough (1993), designed to investigate the ways in which the 'colouring of the light' entering the windows or 'apertures' in a contained space helps us to see what light is doing in that space, as it moves across forms and surfaces made of diverse materials, over the course of a day.

The gallery space had three west-facing windows and one east window - coloured glass panes were added, as well as several elements introduced to ‘make visible’ the play of light within the space. These included: a ‘reflecting pool’ of plate glass on the floor; galvanized metal frames (north wall); and white-painted frames (matte and gloss) (south wall).

To a keen observer, a walk around the gallery space revealed many different ‘aspects of light’: the glow of ambient colour on walls near the windows; kinetic colour caused by the reflectivity of metal frames and gloss paint (and one’s movement in the space); the contrast between ‘soft’ and hard’ reflections on the wood floor and plate glass ‘pool’; coloured shadows generated by the metal frames and moving figures within the space; the changing location and size of projected light on walls, floors, stairs…

In the morning, the solitary east window projected light onto floor and walls - by noon, the projection was gone, leaving soft glowing colour on nearby surfaces.
Around 1 pm, the three west window projections began to surface on the north wall and the floor. By mid-afternoon, the space was activated by long stretches of coloured light reaching diagonally across the gallery space.

In late afternoon, as the west light became directly parallel to the north wall, the projections stretched out and magnified on the wall until only the northern window projection remained, stretched along the full length of the gallery wall, before gradually fading and disappearing for the night.

Through this project I showcased what I had learned in the Colour Chords project, and continued to learn more about the potential for enhancing interaction of light and colour with space/form/time.

 

ALDERWOOD COMMUNITY CENTER

Alderwood Centre (Etobicoke/Toronto) is a community centre/school complex: a two-storey height internal ‘street’ connects school, daycare, gymnasium, swimming pool, public library and meeting rooms. The band of high south-facing windows stretches along the entire length of the corridor. The project sought to stretch a limited budget, using five simple colour areas to create an awareness of the sun's movement and interplay with the architecture through daily and seasonal cycles.

The light projecting onto the north wall reaches its highest levels in the morning and late afternoon of the Winter Solstice. By the Spring and Fall Equinoxes, the band of projected light runs down the middle of the corridor and in the summer time, a narrow sliver remains, then disappears during the Summer Solstice before the cycle reverses and the projection begins to grow again.

This project offers an opportunity for the long-term users of the facility to become aware of the yearly and daily cycles of the sun as a part of their lives that is constant, connected to the great cosmic cycles, and not often brought to conscious awareness in our built environment, though ancient and vernacular architectures were often tuned to these fundamental phenomena.

 

EIGHT TONE POEMS – FREEPORT HOSPITAL

"Eight Tone Poems” was a Donor Recognition project intended to help raise money over time. The eight coloured windows line the north-facing side of a corridor which wraps around a central exterior courtyard.

This north-facing corridor looking out to the garden courtyard is the quiet place in the building – the coloured windows build on the existing character of the space to create a contemplative zone for sitting and walking. The windows, while strongly coloured, are quite sheer, and alternate with clear windows, maintaining views through to the courtyard gardens.

The window frames have been designed so that individual panes are easily removable for the addition of donors’ names over time. Several levels of giving are articulated by various sizes and styles of font and titles. The central panels incorporate an anthology of poetry selected by the artist. Over forty Canadian poets ranging from historical to contemporary are represented.

The use of poetry allows for a great wealth of content and imagery which is subtle and unobtrusive – it may be engaged or not as suits the viewer. The individual windows function also as simple ‘colour chords’ or mood pieces, some cheerful and bright, some quiet and contemplative. Family members, volunteers and staff often wheel patients around the corridor – especially in the winter, this space is used as a perambulatory pathway for daily walks. The intent is to give them a rich library of words and thoughts and colours that could be read alone or together, in silence or out loud…

As many of the patients have cognitive impairments, the design brief mandated against projected light entering the corridor space directly. Use of the north-facing windows eliminates projected light except in the early morning (summertime) when the colour projects on the surrounding columns.

The poems and donors’ names (as well as clear edging of panels) are acid-etched into coloured, flashed mouth-blown glass produced at the St Gobain factory in France. Etching the letters and the clear borders surrounding the colour was a very difficult technical process, though it appears simple. This project represents an unprecedented technical achievement in the medium.

 

STATIONS OF THE CROSS – SAINT JOSEPH’S

These simple abstracted images use pure colour and form to tell the story of Christ’s journey of suffering. The deep blue vertical band of the cross is present in all but the first and the last stations, as Christ takes up the cross in Station 2, and is taken down from the cross in Station 13.

Christ is represented by a deep blue rectangle, whose proportions are in the ratio of the Golden Section, often called the Divine Ratio – a rectangle that can subdivide or expand infinitely into a square and another rectangle of the same proportion. This profound ratio is found over and over again in the structure of natural form and growth patterns, and has been used to create ‘ideal’ proportion by artists and architects since the time of Pythagoras in ancient Greece.

The colour gold is used throughout the windows to represent Spirit – it is often glowing and calm, is sometimes viewed in the foreground or background, but becomes very agitated and powerful at the Crucifixion in Station 11, and loses its brilliance but not its significance in the latter stations.

Various other figures – Mary, Simon, Veronica, and the women of Jerusalem – appear as additional rectangles of varying sizes and colour modifications. In Station 4, for example, Mary is shown as a pale blue rectangle – pure pale blue being a traditional symbolic colour for Mary’s robe throughout art history. We see a fine line of turquoise piercing her form, as it was foretold that ‘a sword’ would pierce her heart.

In Station 8, Christ speaks to the women of Jerusalem, saying ‘don’t cry for me, cry for your children’ – and the ‘piercing sword’ reappears to connect these mothers back to Mary in Station 4.

In Station 3, Christ stumbles for the first time, and the staggered repetition of the rectangle shows this action. In Stations 7 and 9 we see similar representations of the ground plane and the Christ figure stumbling/falling, with increasing heaviness and starkness.

Veronica, shown in Station 6 as a small, delicate figure, wipes Christ’s brow with a cool, wet cloth. The legend that Christ miraculously leaves his image on her cloth is represented here.

In the final Station, we see the tomb, as the golden square of the first Station becomes a dense black form. The Christ rectangle, set within the tomb doorway, is darkly luminescent. We feel the despair and darkness of this moment - yet the golden power of the Spirit, emerging out of the darkness, seems to point to the future, to the tomb-shattering power of the Resurrection.

 

TREES I HAVE KNOW

Photography has long played a strong role in my personal research and process work – and with this series I began to actually use it as part of the finished work.  Photographs taken over the course of several years at Lake Huron led to this suite of works for the exhibition 'trees I have known'  (2007, Material Matters Gallery, Toronto).

The impulse to photograph a few trees, again and again, slowly turned into an awareness of my ongoing state of engagement, a relationship I had long had with certain trees. While they seemed timeless and crucial elements of my visual field and my world experience in this special place, it dawned on me also that the trees that I loved were remarkably strong and yet quite vulnerable. How similar they were to the people I knew and loved. It became clear to me that these trees were a part of my emotional landscape, the beings I knew and loved.

One particular tree, an ash, is a magnificent presence in the view overlooking Lake Huron from my studio. Standing very tall on the bluff, it has a poignant delicacy and graceful beauty of form, yet it is extremely powerful. One day I realized that it might be dying - its leafy bower diminishing over time... I suddenly felt the huge hole its absence would leave, both visually and spiritually. Several of the works in this series feature this tree, or parts of it. Later I discovered that it was an ash tree, a species very threatened by an invasive beetle.

Trees are intimately connected with material that we love to look at and to touch. In my works for ‘trees I have known’ materiality and immateriality are addressed. Glass as an ethereal medium allows a delicious reversal of what is solid and what is ether...in the glass panels the trees become transparent and the opacified (sandblasted) backgrounds of sky/air/water are the solids...this gives an aliveness to the trees as we see through them to the views beyond…