The world of Talia Shipman is an underwater haven for weary commuters

A large-scale installation under the 18 York Tower in downtown Toronto, “Blue Space (Water Wall)” is the first major public artwork by Vancouver-born, Toronto-based artist Talia Shipman.

Sculptural tile installation brings life to a nondescript tunnel

There's a special kind of delight in discovering something unexpected in your surroundings – a new restaurant around the corner, a patch of poppies in a neighbour's yard. Or maybe it's a turquoise sculptural wall, an insertion of beauty into the bland tunnel where you walk to work every day.

A large-scale installation under the new 18 York Tower in downtown Toronto, "Blue Space (Water Wall)" is the first major public artwork by Vancouver-born, Toronto-based artist Talia Shipman.

"In colour psychology, turquoise controls balance and stability," says Shipman. "While the health benefits of 'green spaces' are known, for this wall, I created a 'blue space,' using wave shapes and water colours to bring the calming feeling of being near water, inside the core urban setting."

The health benefits of 'green spaces' are known. For this wall, I created a 'blue space.'- Talia Shipman

"Blue Space (Water Wall)" consists of a series of square sculptural tiles in varying shades of turquoise, blue and white. They span the length of the  corridor wall, brightening up the space with their fresh, vibrant colours and curved surfaces that catch the light.

For inspiration, Shipman drew from the site's history. "The site of the building was at one point underwater and part of the Toronto Lakeshore," she explains.

"As the wall is only on one side of the hallway, it acts as a boardwalk… The light from the top of the wall acts like the sun reflecting on the water."

Before "Blue Space (Water Wall)," Shipman was recognized primarily as an art photographer. Her last series of photo-based works were featured as part of Toronto's Contact Photography Festival in 2014, and still hang on the lobby walls of the Drake Hotel.

Making the leap from two-dimensional images to a huge three-dimensional relief wall is no small feat. "When we first went to the site we had to wear construction boots and hats," Shipman remembers. "Only the framework of the space was there." Envisioning what a large-scale piece will look and feel like in a space that is still a construction zone is a mind-boggling proposition. But Shipman drew from personal experience to summon the confidence to take on the project.

Vancouver-born, Toronto-based artist Talia Shipman. (Talia Shipman)

"My mom is an interior designer, so I grew up with floor plans all around me all of the time." She also had full support of the building developer, GWL, and architects KPMB, who hired her as part of a mentorship program.

"I'd rather not say it was hard, but it was challenging," she says. "Although I was confident with my proposals, I was always a little bit nervous walking into a boardroom, often full of men. But then again, that's what drives me — I know it's worth doing if it's out of my comfort zone."


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