The York University Magazine

Fall 2015

The alumni magazine of York University

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staff and students at night. The imagery was inspired by the golden section and the remarkable ginkgo tree." The west-facing painted layer of Leaves of Light is a combination of hand painting, digital painting and screen printing on glass. The artwork includes Goethe's poem "Ginkgo Biloba" in the original German, as well as in Spanish, English, French, Dutch, Italian, Portuguese and Japanese. The word "ginkgo" is written in Chinese, Greek, Arabic, Hindi, Persian, Hebrew, Thai, Russian, Bengali and Korean to acknowledge the multicultural character of York. "As a glass artist working in architectural installations, the idea to bring solar into my work came from a few sources, which all converged within a couple of years," says Hall. "First, my mentor, Professor Ursula Franklin at the Univer- sity of Toronto's Massey College, encouraged me to explore connections to solar. Her physics colleagues in Santa Bar- bara had created a wonderful video, Power of the Sun, which she gave me. Second, I had seen many beautiful buildings in Europe created in a technique called building-integrated photovoltaic (BIPV) and I was convinced it was a great direc- tion for solar. Third, I made connections in Canada, the U.S. and Europe with architects and engineers working in the field of BIPV. Fourth, the studio in Germany where my work is produced made a prototype of art glass with embedded solar cells and encouraged me to create solar work. Fifth, and of great importance, I received a Chalmers Arts Fellowship from the Ontario Arts Council, which gave me the time and resources to experiment with the integration of solar collec- tion into my art glass projects. I am interested in using solar primarily as an environmental advocacy/educational tool." Hall admits she likes to build a story into her installations so that her works are, in and of themselves, a kind of story. So what was the story she wanted to convey with Leaves of Light? "I wanted to make a connection to the ginkgo trees on campus, explore the golden section, look at languages overlapping with images and make solar look beautiful." l T HERE'S NOTHING LIKE letting a little light into your life – or, in this case, your artwork. Renowned Cana- dian artist Sarah Hall has done just that. Hall's sculpture Leaves of Light is an intriguing glasswork that incorporates natural daylight into its structure and stores it using photovoltaic cells. Then, at dusk, the whole installation comes alive as it glows, backlit from within the work's text and design elements that are etched and painted on the several layers of glass that make up the work. Leaves of Light is one of the most recent additions to the many notable pieces on York's Keele campus by sculptors such as Alexander Calder, Enzo Cucchi and Hugh LeRoy. It graces the northwest corner of York's new Life Sciences Building, located just east of the Tait McKenzie Centre. Leaves of Light consists of one glass panel with painted imag- ery, four interconnected solar panels and an interior layer of light-emitting diodes (LEDs). The embedded, custom- designed, blue-grey solar cells were made in Germany and are a perfect match for the innovative, sculptural facade of the building itself. The sculpture's design elements consist of text from a poem by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe about ginkgo biloba trees and images of the tree's leaves. In 1859, Charles Darwin referred to the ginkgo biloba as a living fossil. Indeed, it is one of the world's oldest living tree species, whose existence can be traced back more than 250 million years. There are a number of ginkgo trees planted on York's Keele campus, and a ginkgo motif is also used in the entranceway and ground floor of York's Chemistry Building. Going with the theme, Hall decided to incorporate visual references to the tree in her work. "The Life Sciences Building was in construction when I first met with the team to design the project," says Hall. "The cool, blue/grey/ white palette helped me decide on the silvery colour for the east-facing solar cells and the dichroic glass. The warm, golden colour of the painted panel is a direct counterpoint to the building, and it gave strength to our idea of welcoming 8 The York University Magazine Fall 2015

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