Pascale Girardin makes an entrance

Montreal-based ceramic artist Pascale Girardin recently installed two major sculptures in the main entrance to the Four Seasons private residences in Pudong, China, thereby adding another dot to the map as her work can be found in hotels, restaurants, and stores from Las Vegas to Shanghai, New York, Paris, and Dubai.

“Suspended artwork can occupy an environment without imposing itself on it,” explains the ceramicist. “Through composition, one can create a sense of lightness and softness, giving the impression that each element is floating in space.”

While Girardin takes her clients’ needs into consideration, her approach to projects is intuitive. Commissioned by the Four Seasons Hotel in Pudong (Shanghai’s financial district), to create an artwork in the main lobby of the private residences, she found inspiration in Chinese gardens and calligraphy. Likewise, she created a large porcelain chandelier of which each element evokes a part of the tea plant: leaves, flowers, blossoms, and fruits. Invited to make the artwork in China, she and her team travelled to Jingdezhen, the country’s “Porcelain Capital,” famous for its production of especially fine, white porcelain.

In Girardin’s view, the space between the elements of a suspended artwork are as important as the elements themselves, creating virtual pathways that suggest movement rather than shape. Each component is carefully positioned using 3D modeling. “I spend a lot of time moving the pieces around until I strike a balance between the negative space and the artwork,” she says.

In Shanghai, elements found in the chandelier were integrated with an adjacent wall-shelving unit, which the artist was commissioned to fill with hundreds of porcelain objects reminiscent of an old library. Tea leaves and flowers seem to have been windswept among the stylized books, calligraphy rolls, and brushes, giving the room a feeling of time standing still.

This floral motif pervades her work. In 2010, the French luxury department store Printemps held an international competition to design an art piece for its main lobby. While keeping in mind the establishment’s contemporary style, Girardin’s winning proposal sought inspiration in the floral motifs of the building’s famous cupola on the sixth floor, designed by glass artist Brière and dating back to 1923. “The client was both surprised and charmed that I chose to highlight the origins of the luxury establishment while preserving a contemporary style,” she recalls.

Likewise, when she was commissioned in 2010 to create an art piece for the main entrance of Simons department store in Place Sainte-Foy, Girardin was influenced by the winter landscape prevalent in Quebec by imagining an undulating artwork, whose forms are reminiscent of snow banks or frozen rivers suspended in space.

Girardin owes some of the international reach of her work to the ties she made with well-established designers. For instance, Yabu Pushelberg helped to bring her international recognition, while architectural firm Lemay Michaud introduced her artworks to the Group Germain’s boutique hotels. Jean-Pierre Viau, Quebec’s gold standard in restaurant design, invited her to create artworks for a number of establishments, including Le Toqué! and Juni.