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Warren Carther

The innovation and scale of Warren Carther’s work has placed him at the forefront of contemporary sculptural glass. Working on an international level, he has produced numerous site specific installations. His largest projects, Chronos Trilogy in Hong Kong and Euphony at the Anchorage International Airport in Alaska are among the largest sculptural glass artworks in the world. Among his other projects are glass art installations at the Canadian embassies in Tokyo and London, as well as several international airports and other public spaces.

Carther studied with renowned American glass artist, Marvin Lipofsky at the California Collage of the Arts in Oakland, California. Combined with his fascination with the luminous qualities of glass, Carther has a passion for architecture and public space. In his final year at the California College of the Arts, he began to visualize massive sculptural works in glass. Upon returning to his native Canada, he began to develop the techniques and processes to realize that vision.

His current approach to working in large-scale sculptural glass, rethinks how glass is used in art and the built environment. His current work methods utilize industrial tools to grind, cut, colour, carve and bond glass. The combined techniques that he has developed have allowed him to achieve unique form, significant strength and monumental scale in sculptural glass.

Focusing on the interplay of people and their environments, his works are contextually based. They reflect the essential elements of the space, creating for the viewer, a new experience of that location.

Art in the public realm is highly visible, and is often encountered on daily basis. It is therefor, the art that can have the greatest effect on human lives. Carther focuses on creating art that lives in the real world. His work is inspired by the environmental and cultural context in which they are placed. It engages viewers and encourages them to interact with the art. Each work can be understood on multiple levels, enticing them to pause and take time to consider the art work in their midst.

Texts provided by the artist.

(Un)Still Life with Falling Snow and Beaver, 2015, Canadian Embassy, London, UK.

Installed at Canada House, the Canadian Embassy in London, (Un)still Life with Falling Snow and Beaver, is an unconventional look at iconic Canadian imagery.

Though the work is stationary, it exhibits a perception of movement. The “(Un)still life” exhibits kineticism or implied movement that is actualized by the use of colour shifting dichroic glass. When viewed from a side angle, the 96 cylindrical glass elements that project outward from the carved glass wall, are viewed as pure white, referencing falling snow. However, as you move past the work, and your angle of view changes, dichroic colours begin to emerge from within the glass cylinders, creating kinetic waves of colour. The most brilliant display of the dichroic colour is seen when viewed from directly in front of the glass wall.

This perception of movement is further enhanced by an optical effect similar to Moiré patterns. The effect is produced by the interaction of lines on different planes and is triggered by the viewers own movement as they move past the work. Totally clear lines in the glass wall run horizontally along the lower portion of the work. The clear lines allow partial views of line drawings of beavers that are on the rear wall behind the glass. The line drawings of 5 beavers are never seen in their entirety and are perceived as momentary flashes of movement within the work. The sensation is akin catching a glimpse of a real beaver hidden in the forest just as it dives into the water.

Euphony, 2004, Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport, Anchorage, AK.

As a sculptural work, Euphony creates an engaging and active space. It is a warm shared experience that increases the awareness of visitors to the need for the conservation of Alaska’s great natural resources. It defines a sense of place while addressing the idea of the interdependence of human beings and nature.  The work represents our innate desire to comprehend the world around us; to look beyond the rational and the visible; to reveal some essential truth about the world and our place in it.

Within the nine glass towers of Euphony, there are several themes, which are represented by many overlapping images and symbols. The primary theme of is the complex relationship between nature and industry in Alaska. These images and symbols flow organically throughout the entire sculpture and only occasionally are confined to just one tower. 

I was fascinated by the repeated textures and patterns found in the Alaskan landscape. The patterns that could be observed beneath one’s feet as one walks across the land are often very similar to those that can seen from the window of an airplane crossing the very same land. The carved textures in the glass reflect this. It is a deliberately ambiguous impression of the various patterns and textures in rock, ice, forests, tundra and taiga. It may bring to mind lichen or bush, the sand on a beach in Nome, the breakup of the ice on the Yukon river, or a stretch of islands near Sitka.

I have contrasted these images with large rectangular fields of copper colored glass. These areas represent traditional “Coppers”, the beaten copper plaques that are created by many of Alaska’s coastal native people, for whom the “Copper” is a cherished symbol of great wealth. I included the “Coppers” as a symbol of the spectacular abundance of nature that all Alaskans possess. 

Within some of the “Coppers” I have created a curvilinear silver form that may, from a distance, appear to be the scales of a salmon. However, as one gets closer, it can be observed to be a pattern taken from expanded metal, a material used extensively in industry. The creation of this ambiguous image makes a reference to Alaska’s continual need to be watchful in balancing the impact of its industrial world with the splendor of its natural world. 

All twenty-one of the hollow structural steel columns are encased in riveted aircraft aluminum.  The aluminum casings are produced from the same materials as aircraft and have a similar aerodynamic shape. Reflecting upon the exceptional balance between industrialization and nature that exists in Alaska, I titled the work Euphony. Euphony is a literary term that refers to the sound of words, which, when spoken together, create an exceptionally beautiful and harmonious tone. 

Aperture, 2011, Winnipeg International Airport, Winnipeg, MB.

Located in the James Richardson International Airport in Winnipeg, Canada, Aperture is comprised of over 200 strata layers of shaped and carved 19mm glass.

New approaches to illuminating glass were explored by imbedding LED lighting within the glass. Dichroic filters were created to introduce lighting effects of shifting tones in blue, violet and gold. The lighting brings out the nuances and details of the sculpted form. Glass has the unique ability to capture, embody and transmit light. Aperture’s carved glass with its translucent frosted white surface becomes a three-dimensional canvas, giving form to light.

Aperture responds to the prairie horizon line, the thin line that stretches across the prairie to infinity, separating sky from earth.  Airport architect, Cesar Pelli created an expansive glass curtain wall that offers an uninterrupted view of that long flat Manitoba horizon line. Aperture’s two illuminated glass structures incorporate cantilevered openings, that combine to create an orifice that focuses the viewer’s attention directly on the horizon line. Bringing the exterior view into the work itself. Aperture presents the viewer with a new perspective in experiencing the horizon line.

Aperture is multifarious and can be perceived as a prairie landscape that incorporates windswept snow, river ice at breakup, furrowed farmland, the rock strata on the edges of Lake Manitoba, and Buffalo Stones, the large boulders that stand stoically out on the prairie.

The stacked and laminated glass creates a form that is quite dissimilar to the general perception of the flat prairie landscape. It is a surprising and unconventional portrait of the Canadian prairie.

(Un)Still Life with Spoked Wheels, 2019-2020,
Chancellor Rapid Transit Station, Winnipeg, MB.

In researching the historical transportation routes from Winnipeg to the U.S. I was struck by the incredible ingenuity of the Red River Cart. Historically and regionally significant, the Red River Cart is a distinctive transportation method designed by the Métis people. It was really the first mode of transportation used in the fur trade to take goods south. It’s most distinctive feature was its large wooden spoked wheel. The spoked wheel became the inspiration for my concept for Chancellor Station. As I explored the historical relevance of the spoked wheel, I became intrigued by how the red river cart was replaced by steamboats with their wooden paddle wheels, and later by locomotives and their large steel spoked wheels. The spoked wheel is the metaphor and focal point of the project. The wheel of the red River cart is an iconic symbol of this region known to every school child. With this piece, I wanted to present that iconic image in an unconventional perspective, that revealed the significance of that object.

Exploring the obvious connection between motion and transportation. I chose to incorporate moiré patterns within the work. Buried inside the glass cylinders are moiré patterns in the shape of a spoked wheel. The moiré patterns create a visual perception of movement within the stationary sculptural objects. The kinetic, moiré effect is due to the spatial relationship of parallel lines. In these works,
two identical line patterns are layered one above the other inside the glass.

This effect is triggered by the viewers own movement as they walk past the work. Working in conjunction with the moiré pattern is dichroic glass. Dichroic glass reflects one color and transmits another. It is both reflective and transparent depending upon the viewers position relative to the dominant light source. This causes shifting colors that transition with the viewer’s movements and existing lighting conditions.

The sculptures are highly interactive, particularly in the gateway to the station. Those that encounter the pieces are drawn in to have a closer look. They can playfully engage with the works looking at them from different angles and observing the optical effects. Looking deep into the glass cylinders, viewers we will see colorful moiré effects that change with different angles of view. During
the day, the dichroic glass will be in reflective mode and reflect back colourful diaphanous echoes of themselves. The colours transition throughout the day and night and in various types of weather.

The artwork for the overpass has a completely different audience. The viewers for this work will be traveling in vehicles frequently at speeds of 80 km/h. To address this audience the glass and steel sculpture is large and bold, as many will see it only briefly as they pass by. Others will have an opportunity to look at it more closely as they sit on the on-ramp waiting for traffic to clear. Those viewers will have an opportunity to notice the shifting colours, the spoked wheel pattern, and the moiré effects buried in the glass.