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Forest City Playground – Market Lane Murals – 139 Dundas Street

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LOCATION 1

 

People and the City

 

On the corner of Wellington Street and Queens Avenue

People and the City was designed by Stuart Reid and Doreen Balabanoff. Installed in 1991, it is a civic monument that pays tribute to the peoples of London, from its Indigenous roots, through the latter half of the 20th century.  The central figure is a cross section of two profiles, one embodying the First Nations, the other representing John Graves Simcoe, the first lieutenant governor of Upper Canada.

The artwork encompasses a solid flat bronze sheet with a series of cathedral like windows – evincing a medieval reliquary, that houses outlined silhouettes of notable figures from London’s past. Situated across the street is a bronze map that labels each window and the names of the represented figures. For example, the top two windows portray Native Peoples and Early Settlers, the middle windows feature people who are recognized in the fields of Politics and Law, Religious Leaders, Service and Activism, and Humanitarians, while the bottom six windows depict people celebrated for excellence in Philanthropy, Research, Education, Business, Industry and Labour, Sports and Entertainment, and the Arts.

The form of the artwork references the city as a built construction, shaped by the forces of architecture and by the people who construct and reside in it. At the time of its fabrication, People and the City was created by cutting edge technology whereby a concentrated water jet spray, controlled by a computer program, slowly cut through the slab of bronze to delineate intricate forms of negative space. A limestone base was constructed to give the sculpture further height and complement the bronze material.

LOCATION 2

 

Forest City Playground – Market Lane Murals

 

139 Dundas Street

In 2019, three local artists were invited by the Downtown London Business Iprovement Association and Tourism London to create a series of murals based on the Carolinian Forests of Southern Ontario.

The first and last murals were painted by Hawli Pichette, whose oeuvre incudes beadwork and installation that draw from her First Nations background. As a bead worker, Pichette gravitates towards florals which served as an aesthetic inspiration. Her mural also articulates the symmetry of the surrounding brick walls while complimenting the architecture of the space. Playful by nature, her mural features stylized blue jays, robins, cardinals, chickadees and nuthatches.

 

The second mural, by Meaghan Claire Kehoe, symbolizes a coming of age. Certain flora and fauna found in the Carolinian Forest serve as a metaphor to tell a story about the artist’s foster child, prominently featured, making her way through the end of her youth while trying to find her way in the world. As such the Eastern Screech Owl symbolizes an ageless aspect of her foster child’s sensibility. Swallows make their home in the Carolinian Forest and have several popular symbolic representations. One of them being rebirth or new beginnings. Another being the carriers of happiness and love. Historically, sailors have used swallow tattoos to signify how far they have travelled. In this regard swallows also symbolize coming home, or a return.  The Monarch butterfly is said to symbolize transformation and long journeys. The Black Oak leaves symbolize the wisdom of nature which accumulates through the movement of time. Lastly, Kehoe’s mural depicts a red sky and low sun – depicting either a sun rise, a new beginning, or a sun set, a conclusion or resolution.

The third mural was painted by Stephanie Boutari, who studied architecture before becoming a visual artist full time. As such, there is a pervasive architectural sensibility in the mural’s composition. The abstracted trees create a very strong vertical presence which is further augmented by various wedge-shaped triangular branches. Notably, a large x made up of implied opposing diagonal lines runs from each corner. This creates illusionistic space by suggesting both upward and inward movement. Stephanie loves to take forest walks, and wanted to convey feelings of looking up and traveling through trees and foliage.  Depicted in the fore ground  are bold stylized representations  - reminiscent of graffiti style tags – of three tree species of the Carolinian Forest. The first one, on the left is the Eastern Redbud. The middle one is the tulip tree and the third one is the Flowering Dogwood.

LOCATION 3

 

The Great Blue Heron

 

on the corner of King Street and Ridout Street

Created in 2010, The Great Blue Heron connects the towering Renaissance condominium to London’s natural geography, where the artist Ted Goodden regularly encountered a blue heron while kayaking on the Thames River. As a nature enthusiast, Goodden originally conceived of the design for this artwork in 1975, whilst creating experimental wire sculptures inspired by his interest in waterfowl. This unique aesthetic sensibility was eventually distilled into an organic simplified form, and is further accentuated by its installation, high up on the side of a building.

 A circle of stained glass, designed by Goodden’s friend, Peter Andre, adorns one wing of the linear sculpture. This luminously patterns the sidewalk with coloured light, which slowly moves as the earth orbits the sun. To articulate this feature, Andre hired a stone mason to make a tile, which was installed at a precise place on the ground to line up exactly with the colored light beam during the summer and winter solstice. Such a feature gives this artwork an otherworldly cosmic sensibility which reminds us of the passage of time.
 

LOCATION 4

 

Good Hands

Peace Garden, South end of Ivey Park 331 Thames Street

Designed by artists David Bobbier and Leslie Putnam, and installed in 2011, Good Hands honours the Tolpuddle Martyrs, considered originators of the British trade unionist movement in the 1830s. It was commissioned in collaboration with the London District Labour Union as part of the City of London’s Public Art Program.


The monument’s two hands — one older, one younger — pay tribute to six agricultural labourers from Tolpuddle (in Dorset, England) who founded the Friendly Society of Agricultural Labourers in violation of British laws prohibiting collective bargaining by workers. After the Tolpuddle Martyrs served time in Australian penal colonies, popular outrage and one of Britain’s first successful political marches led to their pardoning. Five of the six eventually resettled in London, Ontario.


Bobbier’s print making background imparts a linear style to this artwork, which invariably enables a view to abstraction. Indeed, unless one looks at the artwork from the front or the back, Good Hands appears to be an abstract convergence of flowing lines. To this point, Putnam and Bobbier encourage the viewer to experience this artwork from as many different angles and perspectives as possible thereby inviting us to take our time with the process of apprehension.

LOCATION 5

 

As the Crow Flies

West side of Museum London on the corner of Dundas Street and Harris Park Gate

As the Crow Flies is a living eco-based public art installation by internationally recognized Canadian artist Ron Benner. Benner’s photographic garden installations are in several collections including the National Gallery of Canada, the Art Gallery of Ontario and Museum London.


Large scale photographs, embedded in a built pond, illustrate Benner’s travels to locations where land meets water along the longitudinal meridian of London due South, including Port Stanley, Florida, Cuba, Panama and Peru.  Bridging the environment, politics and the economy, the images act as a compass that visually connect each location based on geographical flows of resources such as food and petroleum.


Since the mid-70s Benner has mixed photography with organic materials like resins, plants, flowers, seeds, and crops. Generally speaking this artistic technique aims to disrupt or alter common assumptions. Disruptions or alterations, in this regard, can generate new or unknown realizations about nature based and socialized relationships. Installed in 2005, As the Crow Flies therefore utilizes images that follow the rules of photography which are judged or understood therein. Yet this element is integrated with a self-sustaining pond-ecosphere, complete with local and nonlocal plants, flowers, insects, and animals. Such a fusion lends raises many open-ended questions for the viewer.

LOCATION 6

 

White (Birtha) Rhino

West side of Museum London on Dundas Street off of Ridout Street