The Creationists

Creating art in public spaces with David Pearl

February 24, 2020 Steve Waxman Season 1 Episode 5
The Creationists
Creating art in public spaces with David Pearl
Chapters
The Creationists
Creating art in public spaces with David Pearl
Feb 24, 2020 Season 1 Episode 5
Steve Waxman

Welcome to the Creationist, a podcast about people who create.

I think it's safe to say that we've all had a tendency to ignore the public art that is all around us in our daily lives. But as soon as we travel, our social feeds become cluttered with selfies in front of works of art that locals in that town otherwise ignore themselves. Glass artist David Pearl has been creating stunning works of art that have been incorporated into architecture and landscapes for several decades. David's artwork is affected by the environment, much like nature itself. 

When David and I started discussing where to conduct our interview. His suggestion was on the site of one of his most public works of art, the 407 subway station north of Toronto. There he created an oval skylight that threw a kaleidoscope of colors onto the subway platform and the train's pulling in and out of the station. He was eventually asked to add colorful sided escalators in a massive multi-colored glass mural that dominates the station's main foyer.

To see photos of the artwork described in this episode as well as materials related to every episode of The Creationists, follow @thecreationistspodcast on Instagram or "Like" The Creation podcast on Facebook. Let us know who you’d like to be featured on future episodes of The Creationists: [email protected] 

Show Notes Transcript

Welcome to the Creationist, a podcast about people who create.

I think it's safe to say that we've all had a tendency to ignore the public art that is all around us in our daily lives. But as soon as we travel, our social feeds become cluttered with selfies in front of works of art that locals in that town otherwise ignore themselves. Glass artist David Pearl has been creating stunning works of art that have been incorporated into architecture and landscapes for several decades. David's artwork is affected by the environment, much like nature itself. 

When David and I started discussing where to conduct our interview. His suggestion was on the site of one of his most public works of art, the 407 subway station north of Toronto. There he created an oval skylight that threw a kaleidoscope of colors onto the subway platform and the train's pulling in and out of the station. He was eventually asked to add colorful sided escalators in a massive multi-colored glass mural that dominates the station's main foyer.

To see photos of the artwork described in this episode as well as materials related to every episode of The Creationists, follow @thecreationistspodcast on Instagram or "Like" The Creation podcast on Facebook. Let us know who you’d like to be featured on future episodes of The Creationists: [email protected] 

spk_1:   0:00
before we begin, I wanted to let you know that photos of the artwork described in this episode can be found at the creationist podcast on Facebook and Instagram. Welcome to the Creationist, a podcast about people who create I'm your host, Steve Waxman. I think it's safe to say that we've all had a tendency to ignore the public art that is all around us in our daily lives. But as soon as we travel, our social feeds become cluttered with selfies in front of works of art that locals in that town otherwise ignore themselves. Glass artist David Pearl has been creating stunning works of art that have been incorporated into architecture and landscapes for several decades. David's Our work is affected by the environment, much like nature itself. You could sort of see a

spk_0:   0:41
mountain in the distance every day, but one day suddenly there's some weird light. In fact, it well wow, that looks amazing. So this tries to tie into that while amazing kind of light effect, so that maybe one day something that you've never ever seen before. It's happening. That might re acquaint your attention.

spk_1:   0:58
When David and I started discussing where to conduct our interview. His suggestion was on the site of one of his most public works of art, the four of seven subway station north of Toronto. There he created an oval skylight that, through a kaleidoscope of colors onto the subway platform and the train's pulling in and out of the station. He was eventually asked to add colorful sided escalators in a massive multi colored glass mural that dominates the station's main foyer. Here, looking at the artwork for a few minutes, I did the artwork here in the station way. Just go in there and come back out. We're not going anywhere, Thank you. They took him a very long time to, uh, start to select an artist to start working with me, and they kind of said, Well, we've got these meetings next week under a meeting next week and I actually spent the weekend painting with acrylics on glass on the upper deck of the place I was staying. It was summer. I'm just photographing my life kind of spread this color, and I'd put layers of color and layers of color behind, so it was never, ever dry painting. It was always just this fluid sense of wet paint, which I still which I wanted it to kind of have, like it was that immediacy of just being done as a brush stroke. But I never thought when I brought these ideas to them, that it was anything other than tentative first steps before stand spending quite a bit more time on it. So I brought these ideas great. Well, what do you mean you love it? I hardly started. So essentially. Then we got locked into this idea that this idea there's a sort of notion in architecture that architecture starts from the hand starts from drawing. That's the first move in architecture. So in a sense, the last move became. I worked by hand, that gesture of the hand, the sweeping gesture, whether it's maybe the train speeding through or it's just the hand written large in the architecture. It's a sort of notion that everyone was sort of happy with you worry, because a lot of architects are afraid of expression in architecture. They, like most of the stations, I think, have this notion of Let's keep it, keep it architectural, keep it cool, keep it. That's not that's not stick our head above the parapet artistically. So what they had been quite taken with in my work before was where I was

spk_0:   3:41
creating pieces. There were animating architectural spaces with light, and the notion of some of those pieces aren't that there's anything to look at this only the effect on the space by the movement of light of the sun coming up, different angles, being very low in the winter be very high in the summer and that. But in this case, there was no denying the fact that there was an aspect to look at as well. Is that so? I knew at that point it had tohave something to look at, but there wasn't any scent of sense that it's gonna be a picture. But it had to be some way to achieve the kind of color that I wanted to project, but in a graphic presence. So that's why I went with this process. Know what nobody knows is that toe work with. It's not like digital printing. Digital printing doesn't illuminate it simply, uh, no pick presence on whatever it's printed on. But this is actually enamel Fritz. It's liquid. It's glass and a liquid medium that's finally

spk_1:   4:44
ground. So it's actually enamel fritz, which which is done in all kinds of buildings as little dots and stuff. So you don't walk

spk_0:   4:52
into it called manifestation and because I still wanted it to look like it had this surface of liquid paint. You know, we had Thio. It's it's basically I had these photographs I took of these paintings this size. Let's face it, this is a huge thing to blow up to the scale. It's 45 meters wide, Um, and they have to in a computer. Generate this at some point as full sized piece of art. That's the 45 meters wide at something like 600 DP. I see you've got a huge, huge files that have to all be separated into pieces of film for each panel, and every color has its own film to make 1/2 tone screen. Each of them are printed, and then each of them have to be laid out next to the other to make sure this color consistency one panel for the other so basically conceding that all the works they spent about 18 months making this because

spk_1:   5:46
there is 18 months making the artwork. Yeah. Okay, so if you look over here, followed it down. What you can't get now is the fact that this here, all this being kept transparent on casts send you pictures, whatever. Two weeks ago and I was just casts lines of colors that alone. You can tell a little bit now that that actually looks orangey. This looks yellow and blue, but that becomes intense sweeps of color when the sun comes down. So all we'll do is go down and come back from below. Being is the impact that this is intended to have, like down here, so that I think it's the only subway station that has natural lighted, all available to a subway platform. Unless they're the ones that are above ground. So the ideas of color, everything else is gray. A stainless steel colors should pick up on everything. Anything. All the surfaces are just picking up colors from the windows. So it became becomes not just a fixed into the material. But it comes part of ah projection device into the other surfaces in the building. Um, so that's the only way I think that you truly got completely integrated artwork That's part of the architectural language, which has always been the background of my training in this kind of field, is that it's Is that it? It's an extension of the architecture into an artistic expression that should find something between that combined residence of being art and architecture. That becomes a single statement, I guess. Did we want to do anything else? You want to go back up there? Are we finished in here? Yeah, way should sell coffee. So let's go back to the beginning. Where did you grow up? And how did you become interested in art? I grew

spk_0:   8:02
up in rural Nagra area on Terry. Just in that sort of beams will Jordan countryside. But I kind of always knew it's gonna be an artist. I probably missed a tremendous amount of schooling through drawing to my own probably a lack of attention because they'd finally, I think when we moved schools into Stony Creek and learned anything happen in a year and 1/2 caught upto integrate eight to go to high school. This goes, I would go through hundreds of pages of joined. My father had been paper home every day. I just drew all the time. Um, so my parents never saved in the drawings because I could remember them. And I wish they had say,

spk_1:   8:41
Look, what were you trying? I would

spk_0:   8:45
join narratives a lot, you know, So there'd be one kind of picture led to another. I drew profiles of heads with heads full of rooms, a lot of things going on inside the rooms. I would like to see some of those now because I can remember doing that over and over. Um, but then despite the fact, you know, in the family, there were sort of lawyers and various people, but I'm a tart school, so I just went to share it. And then I did the sort of year off in Europe, the Middle East and India kind of thing, cause it's the early seventies, and that was a lot of that going on. Um, and on the way back from India, just sort of had this notion. I knew that's somebody I had known that hot art in high school had gone on to teach stained glass insured. And I just thought, I'm I'm you know, I'm gonna I really feel like working now, so I'm going to study stained glass and Sheridan, we couldn't just Do you think that she still did the painting, that printmaking, whatever and them somebody came by name. Robert Jekyll came Thio to talk about what was happening in Europe in the contemporary world of stained glass, which was people in Germany building very large scale projects, Postwar reconstruction, mostly still in churches, although I virtually don't work in churches at all, cause there aren't any new churches being built. But of course, we Germany was being rebuilt, so there's a tremendous amount of artwork going on his buildings, and I thought, Wow, this is great. You can have a whole building. The whole building could be your frame, but it was an exciting, big scale stuff. So I went to study in Wales because at that time there was a really notable course called Architecture of the Last or something, where you, uh, people came from all over the world. They're there were Americans, Canadians, Greeks, Malaysians, Australians. Quite an international group of people came to the school in Wales to study contemporary applications for glass, and I thought I would probably come back and work in Canada and There was a lot of going backwards and forwards between Canada and Britain and because I was actually born there, my parents emigrated to Canada. I always had this. I could always stay and work there as well as work here. And since there was a kind of taking off in the field of public art stuff this at the advent of of the notion that a certain percentage of money towards buildings would be put into artwork for the building started their study in Britain before here. And that was a springboard to actually getting getting to do some projects. So even in my late twenties, early thirties, I was getting some big opportunities that that project that we talked about on the telephone for Mr Than Abbey, which is called an abbey. But it being in private hands for a long time and is becoming a residential school. At that time, I was I was still quite young, competing against very established people. But there was a kind of notion that, you know, there was something new happening and ah, people wanted, but it wanted some, uh, fresh blood. I guess coming in this kind of work so basically from that time from 1983 when I did my first public commission in a center for AH European Studies in North Wales, where artists in residence survived from my work, really, and because of the fact that somebody would say they're going to give you X thousands of pounds or X thousands of dollars for your artwork. But when it's being built as a component as a freestanding component or it's a part of the architecture, it's just understood that there are costs involved to produce materials and ship things and that you're spending certain amount of time. And so it became quite legitimate and quite ordinary toe have reasonable budgets to be paid properly and have a reasonable budget for what you were doing. And it would never seem like I'm not paying that it was all, like, accountable. You have to have engineers. You think you have to have everything. So it was a good Jenny because then later, um, I went on to do a masters in architecture in London, studying with a really quite famous pop architect named Peter Cook who who had all these fabulous ideas in the sixties that for inflatable buildings and pop up buildings and mobile buildings. And he really influenced a whole generation of people like that in influence that we talked. Some people, like Zaha Hadid and Daniel Libeskind and and all soppy did the school. All the students of Hiss. And then I was a student that is at the very end of his professor being a professor in London, so that that compass that finally complimented that notion of being knowledgeable enough to work in the mill yer with architects and engineers and in that fabrication go under field. So that was a compliment to that fine art starting out and Sheridan in the first place.

spk_1:   13:44
I mean, when I when I've told people over the course the last couple of weeks that I was interviewing a glass artist, I think a lot of people it'll, you know, thought more traditionally with regards to stay in glass and, you know, the lead, the lead outlines of what not or at best, realistic paintings on glass. My question is what led the style that you've developed?

spk_0:   14:08
I guess I never assumed anything else other than the fact that it could be a contemporary art parallel with anything else is happening in contemporary. I didn't see any reason it had to be in some little siding on a minor line on the outside of town that didn't really go anywhere. I always thought it could be, you know, properly expressive contemporary mode of expression. Now

spk_1:   14:31
there is a kind

spk_0:   14:32
of challenge to that notion. If something is attached to something like it's in a building, maybe it's not really art, because it's not like fine art in the sense that it's not a painting in a gallery. That's it was quite a recent notion of what constituted fine art. I think if you look at, in a sense, Western art to me is found. It is a tradition through the Catholic Church as a patron. All that art that went on in medieval times two. They're in a sense, when there's either a combination of the Catholic Church and the Medici so whatever, and a lot of that artwork, even right through there on a Scots ah Donatelli or Michelangelo or whatever, they're all working in architecture that they're locating it in a specific site in the building, and nobody ever says Well, that's not art, Michael Angela son the police ceiling, so I don't I don't accept the notion that it can't be an expressive form, so in that sense they're the building. The buildings change the building 70 language, and the notion that somehow or other to work traditionally is means that you copy some some tired style from the Victorian. Error is it wouldn't have been a tired star when it started. It would have been innovative. I was think traditional work is to do with constant innovation rather than this copying of some figurative style. So, um, and the interesting thing about working with enamel ing is it was first introduced in something like the 16th century. To stain glass. They discovered that they could have liquid or applied enamels to fired on the glass in some way, said study any different than that.

spk_1:   16:20
So you keep you keep calling this liquid liquid

spk_0:   16:23
less well, No, it's It's all so clean enamel work, which is enamel fret, which is a finely ground glass in a liquid medium that's finally ground enough to be pressed through a silk screen. I work with printers in the same way. I'm not comparing myself that, too. How uh, pick gas. O R N e uh, Andy Warhol, whatever would have used to, but it's all the same. A silkscreen printing. It's doing films and printing. It's just printing with the material that can be fired into the surface of a glass and become a permanently fuse layer with glass.

spk_1:   17:07
I can only think of how there are people that look at what you've done here. Some of and some people see it as art, and some people who walk by it every day don't really pay attention to them. But as I think I said to you on the phone, and as I said to my wife after I came from here, it's like it's you know, it's like the people in Vancouver who have the mountains there and they, you know, they sort of take them for granted as an as an artist. Are you? Are you conflicted at all with regards to help people interact with your art because of it being environmental, as opposed to what people more traditionally think of this? Something came

spk_0:   17:47
well, people are probably people ignore art hanging on the wall as much as they would ignore any other art um, and Familiarization makes you know or something. But what's interesting about your mountain analogy is you could sort of see a mountain in the distance every day, but one day, suddenly there's some weird light. A factor? You in it. Well, wow, that looks amazing. So this tries to tie into that while amazing kind of light effect that maybe one day something that you've never ever seen before is happening that might re acquaint your attention was for the most part, painting is it is shown and seen in a in a consistent, properly white light, balanced or whatever kind of kept away from too much natural light that might damage it or whatever. So, um, it's a very important consideration for sure when you're doing it.

spk_1:   18:44
One last question would be Where do you find inspiration,

spk_0:   18:48
huh? Well, I probably find most of my inspiration in the natural world. Um, in the sense that I find the natural word world more continuously rewarding then an urban world that said I I do mostly only go to visit places for the architecture. I really like architecture. And so I do go to see architecture, and I don't rely on pictures of a building to have any impression of it. I think you have to see a building. And so I love architecture. So, um, but I probably and so I will get some ideas or influence for that. But I think really, my strongest interaction is with the natural world and phenomena that I encounter in the natural world. But I also tend to think that a lot of the natural world is incredibly abstract. If you stop interpreting it into information. Oh, our identification and and so they do have a body of work is photography that I've done and I've been involved in the few books, and I really interested in taking a completely straightforward picture of something that you can't tell what it is, because if you disengage from identifying all the time, that can be quite unusual encounters in the natural world, particularly terms of light or water, a sky or things that I don't mean sunsets, but just phenomena. So I suppose it comes from that, really, although I don't tend to work directly from that other than this photography, So it's hard to see that that would come from that in some ways in my glass work because then when it comes to a building, I'm more interested, probably in the phenomenal

spk_1:   20:45
ology of light in space. I hope that you enjoyed this episode of the creationist. If you'd like to find out more about David Pearl, go to David Dash pearl dot com. You can also see photos of David's work by following the creationist podcast on Instagram and Facebook. If you'd like to comment on this episode, have suggestions for future episodes or just say hi, email. The creation is podcast at gmail dot com. And please don't forget to subscribe and raid us on your favorite podcast platform. I'm Steve Waxman, and I created this podcast.