Two of Canada’s foremost artists unveil public art works commissioned for Surrey’s new City Centre Library
In keeping with the monumental scale and scope of the Surrey City Centre Library, the city’s government chose one of Canada’s foremost sculptors, Liz Magor, and one of Canada’s foremost painters, Gordon Smith, for its design team.
The selected artists met with the architecture team and librarians, and discussed both the building’s design and function, and the sites and opportunities for artworks. The vision of the public art was to complement the regular activities within the library – reading, researching and discussion – and be meaningful to its diverse users and urban context.
Smith’s large scale diptych, Surrey Library Commission, presents a painting continuing his series of West Coast landscapes. Measuring over 6 meters wide, the acrylic on canvas piece is located near the entrance on the main floor and is one of the largest paintings created by Smith, who turns 91 years old this year. He has a long history of encouraging art in the lives of young people and is pleased to have his work located near the children’s area of the Library.
“We are privileged to have had the opportunity to work with an artist as visionary and skilled as Gordon Smith. His west coast landscape is a magnificent painting that thoughtfully complements the striking architecture of the Library,” says Councillor Judy Villeneuve, council liaison to the City’s Public Art Advisory Committee welcomes this artwork. “This relationship mirrors the long-standing friendship between Gordon Smith and Bing Thom. It is a delight to see the result and to celebrate Gordon for his important contribution to the Library and to the City’s collection of public art.”
“This commission allowed us to bring the work of a major Canadian painter into the living room of the City,” explains Jim Adams, chair of the Public Art Advisory Committee. I expect that there will be generations of Library patrons who will make this painting part of their experience and future expectation of what a great painting and a great civic building should be.”
Magor’s four sculptural forms titled Marks are installed in a group of three on the third floor and a single piece on the fourth floor of the Library. Magor’s set of four sculptures challenges library visitors and their expectations. From a distance, it is difficult to tell if the forms are “realistic” like rocks, or whether they are chairs. Up close, they continue to be mysterious in their textured surfaces until people sit on them. They’re made of soft black silicone, and are shaped by impressions of the human body – hands, legs, elbows.
“I want to thank Liz Magor for bringing such strong works into this space. While at first we might find them mysterious, even a bit edgy perhaps “Marks” delvers an aesthetic experience in so many ways – up close one can touch the marks left in their creation, and they offer such a physical contrast to the clean white building,” says Villeneuve.
“They may look abstract from a distance, but if you look at them closely, or from the balcony of the floor above, you’ll notice they are shaped like punctuation marks,” says Adams. “We, as representatives of the diverse people of Surrey surrounding them, serve as the living stories they punctuate.”
The City of Surrey implemented a public art policy in 1999, and since then 1.25 per cent of the construction cost of new civic buildings has been invested in public art. The City’s public art collection includes 55 projects, located in civic parks and buildings in all of Surrey’s town centres. The artworks have been created in a range of materials from carved stone and bronze sculptures, to interactive sculptures, illuminated overpasses, and collaborative community art projects such as mosaics. For more information on Surrey’s public art collection, visit surrey.ca/arts.