I was in Lima, Peru about ten years ago and along with the food and the genial nature of the people, one of the things I enjoyed most about the city was the simple fact that people and compa-nies painted their buildings in a vibrant array of colours.
The blues, ochers, yellows and oranges brightened up the city tur-ning what could have been another grey concrete paradise into something that expresses a certain joie de vivre. Taken as a whole the Lima cityscape becomes an abstract geometrical piece of living art.
Although things are beginning to change most public art in Cana-da has traditionally been limited to centopaths commemorating war dead in public parks and town squares. For public art to be truly public it may also needs a patron or sponsor. Very few municipalities can afford to get into the art busi-ness and those that can are probably terrified about making the wrong choice when it comes to choosing between abstract, re-presentational, traditional or modern art. Montreal, for sake of argument, hasn’t been very good when it comes to adding art to nature. Last year the city began celebrating the 375th anniversary of Montreal by spending $3.45 million to ins-tall granite “stumps,” that the city has called Discovery Stops. Pas-sersby wonder what they are and most citizens decried the project as a waste of money. Meanwhile, far away from Mount Royal in a neighborhood near the West Island another public art project was coming to life during the late summer and fall, Bleu de Bleu, an immersive art ins-tallation by Alain Paiement was slowly coming to life on the sound barriers on each side of Highway 20 between Trudeau International Airport and 1st Avenue in Lachine, an 8km stretch of otherwise drab commute that in rush hour becomes a parking lot.
Much of the sound barrier lining the southern side of the highway has decorative elements in it. Most of these consist of raised lines a foot or so wide standing out from the rest of the surface. There are also a series of stylized swirls in the concrete.
These have been painted a bright vibrant blue. The colour was cho-sen because it has positive associations and is an uplifting colour. Closer to Montreal, the walls of an underpass are entirely painted. Without a doubt the effect is cheerful And then they installed the light sabres
When I first noticed that parts of the highway were being painted blue I was delighted. It reminded me of Peru and I thought the co-lour was great. Then they installed the light sabres. Of course they aren’t called light sabres but I couldn’t resist. One of the nice things about Bleu de bleu is that it changes with the light.
As the light fails the LED light columns start slowly pulsating a soft blue light. There are 83 light sabres and they range in height from 17 to 22 feet in height. There is also a third element, 400 me-ters of reflective panels have been installed by the side of select portions of the road. The whole shebang took 200 workers 1,000 hours over a four month period of time to create, assemble and install the piece. Sometime shortly after they had started painting the sound walls I was listening to a radio phone-in show that was discussing Blue de bleu and I was mildly amused by some of the calls during which listeners expressed their shock and consternation that so-mething had actually changed. And this explains my earlier remark that public art really needs the benefits that come with being paid for by a patron and not by government. It is difficult to argue with something when someone else is footing the bill.
The bill for Bleu de bleu is $3.2 million and it is being paid by a group of sponsors, or patrons, if you prefer led by the National Bank of Canada. The project will be maintained for a five year term. What happens then is pure speculation. Will the general public de-mand that it be kept going or will it be removed or just left to de-cay is anyone’s guess. The light columns have been tested by aircraft engines and can withstand winds up to 200 km an hour. That to my mind is a fine argument for maintaining Bleu de bleu. Happy Holidays
Here at Magazin’art we would like to wish all our readers Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. We would also like to remind you that if you love art you should consider finding gifts that reflect that love. Art of many kinds is widely available at Christmas markets and arts and craft fairs. It doesn’t have to have a frame to be a work of art, it all depends on the skill and the inte-grity that went into whichever object you are considering. Of course if you are considering buying a painting, print, litho-graph or sculpture, go ahead and do it. Just remember that art should never be bought because you think its value is going to ap-preciate. Buy art because it speaks to you and says something that means something to you. Buy it because you love it and have decided that you want to live with it. On a more sombre note Jacques Latulippe, the founder and long-time Magazin’art editor in chief died on September 25, 2017 at the age of 79. Jacques will be sadly missed by everyone who had the pleasure of knowing him. A tribute to Jacques appears on page 49.