'Naillies' sculptor David Gerry Partridge dead at 87

Canadian artist David Gerry Partridge, known for his unique sculpture technique using nails, has died at age 87.

Canadian artist David Gerry Partridge, known for his unique sculpture technique using nails, has died at age 87.

His murals of nails, created with a technique he called "Naillies," adorn public buildings such as Toronto City Hall, Ottawa's Capital Congress Centre and York University's Scott Library.

He won numerous commissions in Canada and the U.K. for his nail sculptures, including the work Cratered Column that showed at Expo '67.

The Metropolis nail mural is one of the most popular attractions at Toronto City Hall.

He also sold work to the National Gallery, Art Gallery of Ontario, the Tate Gallery in Liverpool, the Gallery of New South Wales in Australia and the Art Gallery of Windsor.

Partridgehelped co-found the St. Catharines Art Association and mentored many young artists in St. Catharines, Ont.

Born in Akron, Ohio, on Oct. 5, 1919, he moved to Britain in 1928 and then came to Canada in 1936, where he was educated at Trinity College School and the University of Toronto, taking drawing courses at Hart House.

During the Second World War, he was a flight instructor for the Royal Canadian Air Force, becoming a naturalized Canadian in 1944.

Partridge beganhis career as a painter and printmaker, and worked as a teacher from 1946 to 1962.

In 1952, he was the first curator and co-founder of the St. Catharines Public Library Art Gallery, which later became the St. Catharines Art Gallery at Rodman Hall.

Nails in plywood

In the late 1950s, while furthering his art studies, he developed the technique of hammering nails of different sizes into plywood to form a sculpture, which he described as "landscape abstractions without the horizon."

"I was studying at Atelier 17 in Paris, etching and engraving, with William Hayter, during February and March of 1958," hesaid in an interview posted on his website.

"I was fascinated by the irregular surfaces of deep-etched copper and zinc plates, irrespective of their purpose in printing. They became low-relief sculptures, which seemed to my ex-pilot's eyes like aerial views of topography."

After seeing a metal sculpture by Hungarian artist Zoltan Kemeny in Paris, he decided to try working with nails himself after returning to Canada.

"Somehow a nice 2 ft. x 3 ft. piece of plywood was left over from a project. Nails were at hand and a hammer! I descended to the basement and made my first nail sculpture," he said.

The early sculptures were well received during a show of his paintings in Ottawa later that year.

'He was very approachable'

In 1962, he won a competition and sold one of his early Naillies sculptures, Standing Configuration, to the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.

Throughout the 1960s he worked on a series of commissions for Naillies for private and public buildings and had exhibits throughout Canada and overseas.

"He was superb as an artist, there's no question about it," said Anthony Marlow, president of the St. Catharines Art Association.

"He was very approachable. It's a loss to the arts community. People here are certainly aware of him."

Partridge was made a member of the Order of Canada in 2003.

With files from the Associated Press