Client: Toronto Transit Commission
Location: Toronto, ON, Canada
Completion date: 2021
Artwork budget: $200,000
Creative and Technical Director, mosaics
Mosaika of Montreal
Project Director, mosaics
Mosaika of Montreal
Director of Artwerks, art glass
public art manager
Toronto Transit Commission
Florae consists of two large-scale ceramic mosaics and one colour digital print on the windows above the station’s main entrance. The innovative use of hand-glazed ceramic tiles imbues these stationary wall works with a sense of movement and wind blowing seeds into the sky.
The Toronto Transit Commission ran an international juried competition in 2016 for integrated artworks at Chester Subway awarded to Katharine Harvey. Her designs, entitled “Florae”, portray native plants and flowers found in the station’s neighbourhoods. This residential area is close to the Don Valley Ravine, where indigenous vegetation flourishes. Depicted are milkweed, verbena, trout lily, and blue flag iris colliding in double-exposed photographic overlays. The playful combination of realistic depictions with abstract interventions pushes the mosaic medium in a new direction. The architecturally integrated art glass above the entrance features a super enlargement of flowers that expands into clouds and heavenly bodies. Mosaika of Montreal (Quebec) fabricated the two 8-by-14 foot mosaics, and Pulp Studio (California) produced the 8-by-38 foot PIX imaging art glass.
The mosaics function as two distinct wayfinding features for the eastbound and westbound entrances to the subway track level.
As part of the Toronto Transit Commission's (TTC) Easier Access and Second Exit program on the subway system, they assign 1% of their construction budget to public art and beautifying spaces. The TTC built new elevators and a second entrance/exit at Chester station.
The project's scope changed several times over four years of pre-construction planning. The addition of advertising banners at track level, automated turnstiles at the entrance, and a new glass front entrance posed new challenges to the artist. She worked with art consultant Helena Grdadolnik of WORKSHOP to incorporate her artworks into the architectural space. As a result, her final design fills the dimensions of two walls facing the eastbound/westbound entrances to maximize their visual impact. Harvey's floral patterns complement the pastel green hue of this tiny residential station.
The artist could not damage the irreplaceable historic tiles from the 1950s that line the walls. As a solution, the installers prepared and primed these walls to install the mosaics directly over top.
Her design for the art glass windows had to be eight feet high above the street due to visibility regulations. With the addition of extra lighting inside, the vivid windows punch bright colours onto Chester Avenue.
The artist worked together with Mosaika of Montreal to realize her vision. Harvey visited their studios twice before beginning her final designs. During these visits, she examined the colour ranges of ceramic glazing, patterns, and textures. Mosaika hand glazes and fires tiles in their in-house kilns. She advised the artisans to reuse tiles from their vast collection of previous projects – they did so in playful and unusual ways.
She created collages of double-exposed photographs, which formed the basis for the artisans to go to work. The artist wanted to push the limits of the mosaic medium by rendering the sense of movement and seeds blowing in the wind. The resultant artworks are both realistic and imaginary, sharp and soft-edged, photographic and impressionistic, brightly coloured and lushly dark. Mosaika completely understood the artist's vision and executed it very skillfully.
The artist worked with Pulp Studio in California to maximize the vibrancy and depth of colour in her art glass for the main entrance. The print house drum scanned the artist's image and played with the translucency and transparency of the digital print on glass. Pulp Studio created many test prints for this complex collaborative process.
There are two ceramic mosaics, one facing the eastbound side and one facing the westbound side. . "Trout Lily Blue Flag Iris" 2021 ceramic mosaic 8 by 14 feet. "Milkweed Verbena" 2021 ceramic mosaic 8 by 14 feet. "Trout Lily Blue Flag Iris" 2021 Pulp Studio PIX Imaging digital print art glass 3' x 38'.