The wonderful contradiction in John Patkau’s work is between the strength of steel and its point of failure. It is in that liminal space that the conversation begins; between what our communal expectations and knowledge of the material are, and what the material can be.
Steel is an alloy of iron, one of the most abundant elements on the planet. The ubiquity of steel is a testament to humanity’s success in creating a useful material for all manner of building, making and invention. The word steel has even become synonymous with strength, occupying a place in our lexicon alongside fortitude and resilience.
Cut / Drawn, the title of this body of work by John Patkau, refers to large cuts made in sheets of steel and the enormous tension applied to them as they are pulled to the point of failure. Patkau’s interventions with industrially rolled steel sheets were initiated from a place of curiosity. When subjected to tension, the steel reacts and unfurls in unpredictable ways. Patkau’s sculptures, which exhibit a certain formal elegance, are a physical index of his creation process. Their contours at once expose the vulnerabilities of steel while opening the material up to new avenues of meaning.
The architectural work of John Patkau has received national and international recognition over the past 25 years, including 10 Governor General’s Medals. Patkau Architects represented Canada at the Venice Biennale in 1996, currently has work exhibited at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, England, and has recently completed the Audain Art Museum in Whistler and nearing completion on the Polygon Gallery in North Vancouver. Patkau Architects work has been featured in and the subject of numerous books, most recently “Material Operations” (2017), published by Princeton Architectural Press.