Poppy art project for Pickering’s Esplanade Park

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Published July 8, 2024 at 10:36 am

Waves In A Shell sculpture, Vancouver
Waves In A Shell sculpture in Vancouver by Vancouver-based artist Linfeng Zhou

A Vancouver-based artist known for whimsical art pieces that capture the memories of nature’s beauty has earned a commission to create 11 poppy markers in Pickering’s Esplanade Park as a solemn yet visually striking display of remembrance.

Linfeng Zhou, an artist originally from southwest China, beat out a dozen other artists to win the $32,000 public art project, dubbed Crimson Inflorescence, which will see 11 light posts in the downtown park adorned with poppy petals made from acrylic panels that will emit a “mesmerizing glow” in all light conditions. Zhou promises the project will transform the park into an “enchanted space that not only commemorates an aggregation of stories and memories but also fosters hope for
peace and prosperity.”

The installations will be securely fastened onto the light post, with its lowest point eight feet above the ground, keeping it safely out of reach of passersby and clear of routine park maintenance. Each flower will measure four feet in diameter, presenting an extraordinary view when seen from directly beneath.

Pickering Council endorsed the commission last month, with the funds coming from a public art reserve and the local Legion (Branch 606) consulted on the suitability, design and material used. The original idea of sidewalk ‘markers’ was rejected.

Zhou, who is trained in architecture and industrial design and likes to wander between disciplines and cultures, received the highest juried score by the Public Art Jury and the City’s Cultural Advisory Committee.

Some of his other works include Le monde dans un gland (‘The World in an Acorn’) a meditation pod forming a giant sprouting acorn in Rouen, France; Little Choir in the Wild, a musical sculpture devoted to music of the forest in Viseu, Portugal; and Waves In A Shell, a seashell-inspired wooden structure adorned with undulating light tubes that capture the natural beauty of rolling ocean waves in Vancouver – a sculpture that can be boxed up and moved and has been displayed at numerous festivals and venues across B.C.

Zhou said the Crimson Inflorescence installation for Esplanade Park “seeks to capture the multifaceted symbolism of the poppy in the context of remembrance” by integrating light posts as the stems, evoking the “natural elegance and rapid growth” of these iconic flowers.

As visitors walk the pathway lined with light posts adorned with these crimson blooms, he said, they encounter a “powerful” visual narrative that is not only visually striking “but also emotionally resonant, prompting reflection on sacrifice, memory, and gratitude.”

“My ambition is to introduce artworks that harmonize with Esplanade Park’s existing landscape and infrastructure, while fostering a solemn atmosphere to honor the memory of the fallen and celebrate a cherished Canadian tradition.”

The poppy has been a symbol of remembrance of the lives lost and impacts of war since Canadian John McCrae, who served as a medic and Lieutenant Colonel in the First World War, wrote the poem ‘In Flanders Fields.’

These flowers, with their vibrant red hue, have signified the resilience and renewal of life and as a profound tribute to the sacrifices of fallen soldiers ever since.

The petals of each flower are crafted from fluorescent acrylic sheets, which are securely sandwiched between painted aluminum frames using bolts and nuts. The assembled structure is then mounted onto the light posts with metal brackets. The installations will require minimal maintenance and can be easily re-installed after cleaning.

Final design of the project will be completed by August and the art pieces will be installed by October 21.

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