Canadian ceramic artist Pascale Girardin designs installations for Nobu New York
Montreal-based ceramic artist Pascale Girardin has unveiled her designs for one of New York’s newest restaurants, Nobu Downtown.
Girardin was invited by Rockwell Group to contribute a series of site-specific installations to the dining room. Known for her Asian-inspired works that translate masses of individual ceramic elements into a single large-scale installation, Girardin has transformed five-star hotel lobbies and luxury-brand vitrines worldwide.
Girardin says that Rockwell’s talent is in setting a clear direction while giving collaborators like her their individual artistic freedom. “No two Rockwell spaces are alike,” says Girardin. “David’s signature is to make a powerful impression when you walk into a room. He wants you to leave everything behind and enter the world he’s created. For an artist, that means letting you thrive in your style, while striking just the right balance between his vision and your own.”
For Nobu Downtown, Girardin worked with the Rockwell Group’s brief of creating mural sculptures inspired by sumi-e, the Japanese art of ink-brush painting. In fact, the first thing patrons see as they enter the restaurant’s first-floor bar is a suspended installation in ash wood by New York artist John Houshmand that brings a seemingly ephemeral calligraphic brush stroke to life in three dimensions.
Of Girardin’s three commissions for the 187-seat downstairs dining room, the unquestionable focal point is her duo of high-relief murals in the main seating area. Each of the hand-formed ceramic elements – 3,500 in all – that make up the pieces resemble briquettes of charred wood. Crafted in Girardin’s Montreal studio, the elements were transported to New York and affixed one-by-one to two red Venetian Plaster walls. The result is breathtaking: the intricate tiles forming what looks like the positive and negative space from the stroke of a larger-than-life brush.
Girardin’s second installation in the private dining area, takes its cues from Japanese boro textiles. “This is a patchwork style made by combining indigo cottons from different sources,” says Girardin. “The panels are not regular sizes so their randomness gives them a lively quality.” For this feature wall, Girardin’s studio produced hundreds of glazed blocks and squares in varying sizes and shades of cobalt blue. The two- and three-dimensional mural gives a highly-textured effect, while performing the practical task of concealing LED votive fixtures that illuminate the work.
To delineate a third section, the private Sake Room, the studio created more than 70 earthenware rice-wine bottles that fill two floor-to-ceiling étagères. The wheel-thrown vessels are fired as natural clay, in honour of the Seto and Mino pottery-making traditions of south-central Japan, and finished individually with blue cobalt brushstrokes so that each bottle is unique in size, shape and pattern. They are also glazed inside to make them fully functional. The vessels on their shelves provide privacy for Sake Room diners, while maintaining sightlines into the wider dining room.