Art Inspired by the City
Personnages was inspired by the lives of those who lived and worked in the Leslie House, one of the oldest heritage homes in Vancouver. The nine mosaic figures reference the lives of people—both past and present— in the community where the “little yellow house” still stands. Personnages can be found at the entranceway to The Pacific by Grosvenor, along Pacific Street. We invite you to come and experience this larger-than-life art installation when you are in the neighbourhood!
Lyse Lemieux is a Canadian artist who works in a variety of mediums—including drawing, sculpting, panting and installation. She has been contributing to the national art scene since the 1970s and her practice balances abstraction and representation as it relates to the human form.
Personnages is a French word, with a direct translation in English meaning characters. Lyse interprets the word Personnages in her art as those bearing witness to our unremarkable quotidian, or “day to day”, and our extraordinary, shared existence.
Lemieux was inspired by three different forms of art and architecture when creating this piece: The Caryatides, Leslie House, and the 4th Century mosaics in Italy.
- The Caryatides
Her initial vision for the public art piece was to create a series of colonnades designed to look as though they were dancing. She drew inspiration from ancient Greek columns known as Caryatides. Each one of Lemieux’s mosaic figures acts as a modern interpretation of the Caryatids and references the sculpted female figures serving as the architectural supports of a building in place of a column or pillar.
- Italian Mosaics
Lemieux used mosaic glass tiles called tessera to create the nine figures. She wanted a medium of artwork that was artisanal and handmade while incorporating aspects of historical art and architecture. As Lyse researched mosaic works and their history, she came across the UNESCO World Heritage site mosaics of Villa Romana del Casale in Sicily. These mosaics acted as the inspiration for the style and medium of her work.
- Leslie House
Leslie House, the little yellow house located adjacent to The Pacific, also offered some inspiration for the artistic vision. Knowing that the colonnade where the art would be located could not be visually separated from the little yellow house, Lyse decided to incorporate the buildings heritage into her artwork, and selected tones for the mosaics that would complement the house.
About the Personnages
Many of the figures are representative of who might have lived in and around the area in the last hundred years, and who might have lived and worked in Leslie House.
The pregnant figure speaks to the idea of family and community and was inspired by the original owners of Leslie House: George Washington Leslie, his wife Susan and their seven children.
The figure with an apron could be those who worked and frequented Leslie House when it became Umberto’s iconic restaurant, II Giardino, such as a cook or a waiter. The figure could also be interpreted as a doctor, a healthcare worker, an artist or a plasterer or carpenter like George Leslie.
The figure with the backpack could be heading out for a hike, picking up groceries, going to school or it could even be a food delivery person. The figure could also represent the everyday people of Vancouver and the building workers that commute in and out of the city by foot, bus, bike and car each day.
The figure with the rope is a conflation of many different individuals and can be interpreted as a child playing, a labourer, a mountain climber, a tight rope walker and even a window cleaner.
The figure with the walking stick is inspired by a specific individual with a contagious smile named Joseph, who can be found in the area carrying a large tree branch as a walking stick. As such a well-known and beloved member of the community, Lyse took inspiration from this man and included him as the final figure to complete Personnages.
All nine mosaics are a way of giving back and bearing witness to the extraordinary existence we all share.
Architecture x Art
Grosvenor’s goal when selecting artwork for a project is to have the art blend with the architecture of the building and reflect the local community.
Lyse created Personnages through thoughtful consideration and collaboration with lead design architect for The Pacific, Maxime Frappier. The piece complements the architectural context of the building as well as the vibrant character of Vancouver’s downtown core. Both Frappier and Lyse intended for the public art piece to engage with and reflect the everyday life of local commuters and pedestrians.
- Did you know that the mosaic panels are all made of hand cut pieces of glass called…
A tessera (plural is tesserae) is an individual tile, usually formed in the shape of a cube, used in creating a mosaic.
Smalti (plural of smalto) are specialized mosaic tesserae made from richly coloured glass. Originally developed for Byzantine mosaics, the glass contains metal oxides which produce an almost infinite range of colour possibilities.
The mosaic tiles for this public art installation are pieces of glass that are handmade in Mexico. Glass is more commonly used in outdoor mosaics as opposed to ceramics, which are used indoors.
- Where are the most famous Caryatids?
The most famous Caryatids in existence today can be found at the top of the acropolis in Athens, supporting the ancient Greek temple Erechtheion.
- What do the Mosaics of Villa Romana del Casale and Personnages have in common?
Personnages reflects and complement both the architecture of the Pacific and its community. Similarly, the mosaics at Villa Romana del Casale in Sicily were created in a particular architectural context that reflects the heritage of the land and the people who lived there.
- How many mosaic tiles were used to create Personnages?
Approximately 1 million mosaic tiles were used to create Personnages!
- Total number of project hours?
It took over 9,000 hours, or 375 days, to complete the project.
For More Information
Personnages was commissioned by Grosvenor for the City of Vancouver Public Art Program in fulfillment of the requirement for 889 Pacific. If you would like to learn more about Personnages or about The Pacific by Grosvenor, please send us an email or visit the website.