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Surface Design for Tempered Windscreens

Surface Design for Tempered Windscreens

Jaan Poldaas
b.1948 - 2018

Surface Design for Tempered Windscreens
  • Tempered glass
  • 1992
  • Numerous Panels, 60 cm x 2.2 m
  • 55 John Street, Metro Hall, Toronto

About the artwork

Positioned between Toronto’s Metro Hall and the Marathon office building on Wellington Street are 36 screens made of tempered-glass, designed by Jaan Poldaas. While the screens are aesthetically pleasing they are also practical, serving as a comforting windbreak, for what has turned in to a wind tunnel between two buildings, and also a gateway to and from the main areas of the David Pecaut Square.

Poldaas’ sculpture is divided into smaller sections of panels, in groups of threes and fives, staggered carefully so that people may easily pass through. Etched with vertical and horizontal lines, Poldaas intended for his mathematically spaced glass panels to symbolize the way in which our civic government functions.

About the artist

Born in Sweden, Jaan Poldaas was an artist known mainly for his vibrantly coloured paintings. However, before picking up a paint brush, he studied architecture at the University of Toronto in the late 1960s. Nurturing his extreme attention to detail, Poldaas often devised a set of self-imposed rules through which he created each body of work. A life-long practitioner of hard-edge abstract painting, Poldaas’ sophisticated and rigorous process-based ideology and distinctive chromatic pieces are what set him apart from his peers in the Canadian arts circle.

The artist’s Twelve Colour Pair series from 1997 perfectly exemplifies this kind of game of reward and punishment. Poldaas began by deciding on three shades each of four colours: red, green, blue and grey. Then, from these twelve options, the artist paints four parallel bands of colour on the canvas, allowing himself to indulge his own tastes. But when pairing the first canvas with the second, Poldaas’ strict rules had to be observed. The second panel would be composed in such a way that the colours are opposite to those within the first, representing a “constant struggle of will and law.”

Poldaas was the founding member of Mercer Union in 1979, a non-profit artist-centered space in Toronto, and has works in the collection of the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) and the National Gallery of Canada, among others.

Fun facts

  • A short film about the artist was recently made by director Patrick Barfoot, entitled Jaan Poldaas: New Work. In 1998, Poldaas was enjoying a reputation that rested on three decades of work, and yet one year later, the artist vanished from the art world. Barfoot the poses the question: "Why would an artist choose to disappear at the height of their career?".

Engagement questions

  • How does the placement of this work impact the audience experience of it?