June 25, 2013

Pascale Girardin’s artworks can be found in hotels, restaurants, and stores across the globe, from Las Vegas to Shanghai, including New York, Paris, and Dubai. Recently, she installed two major sculptures in the main entrance to the Four Seasons private residences in Pudong, China.

“Suspended artwork can occupy an environment without imposing itself on it,” explains the ceramicist. “Through composition, one can create a sense of lightness and softness, giving the impression that each element is floating in space.”

Distinctive style
While Girardin takes her clients’ needs into consideration, her approach to projects is intuitive. Commissioned by the Four Seasons Hotel in Pudong (Shanghai’s financial district), China, to create an artwork in the main lobby of the private residences, she found inspiration in Chinese gardens and calligraphy. Likewise, she created a large porcelain chandelier of which each element evokes a part of the tea plant: leaves, flowers, blossoms, and fruits. Invited to make the artwork in China, she and her team travelled to Jingdezhen, the country’s “Porcelain Capital,” famous for its production of especially fine, white porcelain.

In Girardin’s view, the space between the elements of a suspended artwork are as important as the elements themselves, creating virtual pathways that suggest movement rather than shape. Each component is carefully positioned using 3D modeling. “I spend a lot of time moving the pieces around until I strike a balance between the negative space and the artwork,” she says.

In Shanghai, elements found in the chandelier were integrated with an adjacent wall-shelving unit, which the artist was commissioned to fill with hundreds of porcelain objects reminiscent of an old library. Tea leaves and flowers seem to have been windswept among the stylized books, calligraphy rolls, and brushes, giving the room a feeling of time standing still.

Creative integrity
Girardin is one of those artists who can adapt their personal vision to their clients’ identity without forsaking their creative integrity. In 2010, the French luxury department store Printemps held an international competition to design an art piece for its main lobby. While keeping in mind the establishment’s contemporary style, Girardin’s winning proposal sought inspiration in the floral motifs of the building’s famous cupola on the sixth floor, designed by glass artist Brière and dating back to 1923. “The client was both surprised and charmed that I chose to highlight the origins of the luxury establishment while preserving a contemporary style,” she recalls.

Dialogue is at the core of Girardin’s practice. “It’s a conversation with the material as much as with the space, the clients, and my collaborators,” she remarks. In Jingdezhen, she quickly recognized local talent and called upon master ceramicists’ specific expertise to undertake this large-scale commission, as well as rapidly modifying her usual techniques in order to work with Jingdezhen’s fine porcelain. In Paris, she worked with thermoformed polycarbonate (which is stronger than porcelain and can be thermoformed by hand) in order to shape stylized flowers of greater dimensions than clay would allow. Through active listening, the artist is able to work with her clients’ wishes and develop the means to produce them while taking into account specific projects’ financial aspects.

“Budget should never limit creativity,” she says.

This aptitude for dialogue has long produced a chain reaction, enabling Girardin to develop lasting ties with well-established designers. For instance, the interior design firm Yabu Pushelberg helped to bring her international recognition. The architectural firm Lemay Michaud introduced her artworks to the Group Germain’s boutique hotels. Jean-Pierre Viau, Quebec’s gold standard in restaurant design, invited her to create artworks for a number of establishments, including Le Toqué! and Juni. And in fact, when it comes to gastronomy, the relationship of trust and partnership that she has established with Daniel Vézina speaks for itself!

Photography: Lulin Chen

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