New pub­lic sculp­tures re­spond to the world around them

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - ARTS & LIFE - ALI­SON GILL­MOR

WHAT IT IS: Sen­tinel of Truth by Win­nipeg artist Dar­ren Ste­be­leski is a new pub­lic sculp­ture in­stalled in the Mil­len­nium Li­brary Park. Text ex­cerpts from 18 books are etched onto re­cessed stain­less steel pan­els, which are set into a 50-me­tre pro­tect­ing steel wall.

WHAT IT MEANS: Ar­chi­tects some­times say that if you can build in Win­nipeg, you can build any­where, a ref­er­ence to the ex­treme tem­per­a­ture range we ex­pe­ri­ence, from a frigid -40C to a siz­zling 35C. The same goes with out­door sculp­ture: Works have to with­stand heat, cold, snow and wet, some­thing that be­came clear when last week’s cel­e­bra­tory pub­lic open­ing for Ste­be­leski’s Sen­tinel — as well as for emp­ty­ful by Van­cou­ver-based artist and ar­chi­tect Bill Pechet — got rained out.

For­tu­nately, the party was moved inside, but there I was out­side, try­ing to take de­tailed notes in a down­pour, my note­book get­ting all soggy and sad. As I squinted to read the text ex­cerpts through the haze of rain, my eye was drawn to the sin­u­ous pat­tern­ing of wa­ter as it streamed down the steel wall. It struck me that these weather con­di­tions were part of this mas­sive, aus­terely beau­ti­ful work. In fact, they have to be.

Sen­tinel is de­signed to change with time and the el­e­ments. Ste­be­leski has used weath­er­ing steel, which will grad­u­ally trans­form with ex­po­sure to cli­matic con­di­tions. The work is al­ready show­ing blooms of rust and seams of vivid orange, which mark the dark steel like the brush­strokes of an Ab­stract Ex­pres­sion­ist paint­ing. With years, the tex­tured patina will set­tle down into a dark, moody brown.

These phys­i­cal con­di­tions af­fect the way view­ers “read” Sen­tinel, and they are a mean­ing­ful part of the work. On the one hand, Ste­be­leski ref­er­ences the power and pal­pa­ble phys­i­cal­ity of books by us­ing the so­lid­ity of steel. But he is also aware of the fragility of free speech. Many of the text ex­cerpts come from authors whose words have been cen­sored or si­lenced. It makes sense, then, that the type shim­mers in and out, shift­ing with light and shadow or ob­scured by rain. With its chang­ing na­ture, Sen­tinel re­minds us that we can’t take read­ing for granted.

WHY IT MAT­TERS: Sen­tinel is part of the Win­nipeg Arts Coun­cil’s pub­lic art ini­tia­tive. This in­no­va­tive pro­gram un­der­stands that you can’t just plunk art­works into empty space. Pub­lic art needs to in­ter­act with its view­ers and with its site.

On that stormy evening, emp­ty­ful — which in­cludes a wa­ter fea­ture — seemed to be call­ing back to the weather with a spray of fog and mist, while Sen­tinel stood sto­ically in the driv­ing rain, rust set­tling into its frames. A day, a week, a month from now, the sculp­tures will look dif­fer­ent, re­spond­ing to the world around them.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.