Big Apple welcomes Montreal ceramicist

Anthology I & II is the title of ceramicist Pascale Girardin’s latest artwork, which has recently been unveiled in the Peninsula Hotel, New York, NY. The culmination of eight months’ work and throwing of over 1,200 stoneware pieces, the twin sculptures are an important milestone for the Canadian artist, marking her first public work to be installed in the Big Apple.

Girardin took inspiration for the work, which includes a 10-ft. high screen of over 500 wheel-thrown vessels and two cabinets filled with 400 ornate stoneware pieces, from the ceramics in her own atelier. Wishing to capture the essential expression of pure forms, she stacked and photographed dishware, vases and plates from her studio shelves and sent the images to interior designer for the project, Yabu Pushelberg.

“The compositions that emerged from the accumulation of these eclectic stoneware elements, intrigued me and when I sent the pictures to Yabu Pushelberg they were amazed because we were thinking along the exact same lines,” says Girardin. Both ceramicist and interior designer had referenced late American sculptor and New York resident, Louise Nevelson, and her fondness for collecting and stacking objects to create incredibly detailed and yet often monumental works of art as part of their conceptual vision.

The title of this piece could be seen as a ‘loose homage’ to Nevelson, believes Girardin, but in reality it is more about the act of collecting and finding new meaning through grouping and displaying an assortment of vessels. “Each piece, with its distinct volume and profile, echoes similitude within diversity and offers an artist almost limitless permutations. However, the essence of the work comes in finding rhythms and balancing proportion; in orchestrating both the assemblage and the negative space surrounding it in order to create the whole sculpture,” she says.

Sculpting styles
Anthology I and II encompasses two collections of stoneware pieces. The front cabinet, or screen – Anthology I – is a pair of five inch deep shelving units reaching from floor to ceiling and standing side by side. Stacked vertically on the wooden shelves are 520 sculpted pieces of black stoneware. In subtle, varying tones of semi matte grey glazes, the multitude of different shapes creates a totemic aesthetic, which visitors to the hotel’s Clement restaurant are met by on arrival.

In contrast, Anthology II, a pair of cabinets that forms the perimeter walls of the space, features 410 unglazed pieces thrown in white stoneware, and arranged horizontally on shelves. Their designs are more intricate, evoking images of traditional English pottery, while their finish is white bisque. Girardin likens their look and texture to archeological finds, stating: “They are utterly different in style and texture to those in the front cabinet because I wanted them to create a visual dialogue between the two sets of sculptures; two distinct pieces of work.”

Girardin and her team of seven studio assistants worked for three months to produce all of the stoneware required to fill the cabinets. This included five wheel throwers working full time on the project and other team members firing and glazing each element to produce 1200 pieces in total.

The two completed sculptures now enclose the space, in which a dining table is set, creating an intimate experience for the diners and an intriguing introduction to the restaurant for visitors. Glimpses of dishes and wine glasses from between Girardin’s cabinets only add to the multitude of sculpted forms on display.

Girardin has worked with Yabu Pushelberg since 2003, her large scale artworks taking centre stage in venues created by the interior designers from Toronto to Paris and even Dubai, and this long term relationship proved beneficial in this latest work in New York. Yabu Pushelberg gave her the loosest of brief, trusting that Girardin would ably interpret its mood board, project space and material palette in an artwork suited to the perennial style of the hotel. The ceramicist is grateful for this freedom of expression and believes that her very visual and instinctual style of working is similar to that of her interior design partner, making for the perfect team.

“Yabu Pushelberg and I both tend towards the subdued hues, even monochromatic: we are all about shape, proportion, light and shadow, and as such our instincts are often the same when we conceive our aesthetic, which makes for inspirational collaborations,” says Girardin. “Here at the Peninsula both Yabu Pushelberg’s designs and the hotel itself exude a timeless appeal that transcends trend to create a permanence and a sophistication that I have aspired to in Anthology I & II.”