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Access to Justice - by John Atkin

Photo: Harry Linton

The notion of removing barriers is central to the understanding of this artwork. The sculpture is made from a combination of stainless steel, both polished and painted, and Corten steel. The polished stainless steel reflects the architectural surroundings as well as the colour and vibrancy of busy everyday activity. The stainless steel is also a metaphor for renewal and optimism. The Corten steel is a sealed rust coloured surface, a metaphor for the past, as well as representing notions of human endeavour. The conjoining of the two metals creates a bridge between the old and the new.

Normally, these flat plane surfaces would be read as a barrier or obstacle, except this structure has gateway apertures that allow the viewer to pass through a series of portals: a metaphor for doorways to the justice system. This physical and conceptual barrier is resonant of a series of rules that intersect at different points, with doorways that facilitate access through the space. The apertures facilitate interaction for all users and are non-discriminatory.

The sculpture is characterized by a series of gateways, at different heights, for all sorts of people. Crucially, from whatever angle you approach the sculpture; the viewer will have a vista onto the Law Courts: a clear sightline from their own perspective, through the sculpture and onto the buildings that enshrine the justice system.

Stainless steel and Corten steel are virtually maintenance free, and Mr. Atkin has tested the combination of these metals in a variety of environments throughout the world. These materials are durable and can withstand extremes of temperature, with the added value of Corten steel oxidizing to a bespoke hue of red depending on the atmospheric conditions it is placed in.

The use of colour in this concept is also important, as it has metaphors to users and to Canadian culture and heritage values. Stainless steel, being a light reflecting neutral material, encompasses all nationalities as having access to the law. In addition, this silver-based colour signals a time of reflection facilitating a release of physical, emotional and mental energies, opening new doors and lighting a way to the future: Corten steel weathers to a red hue and is resonant of history, industry and human endeavour, as well as a colour that relates to security and protection. Powder coated steel blue is the colour of trust and peace, suggesting loyalty and integrity.

Quote by artist John Atkin:

“The fine tapestry of combined cultures is something that has underpinned Canadian society for several generations and is a cornerstone of the country’s success.

“The Access to Justice theme of my sculpture is a combination of gateways of different scales, sizes and colour, which is a metaphor for enabling people of any ethnic background equal access to the judicial system. Furthermore, these portals at one and the same time, frame and reveal the architecture of the buildings that enshrine the justice system.

“The blue colour of Access to Justice is a reference to the topography of the landscape, where vistas of the Great Lakes punctuate the vastness of the terrain.

“My sculpture will be complete once I see people interacting with it: stepping through the portals; becoming part of the system of justice that the artwork embodies.”

John Atkin - Artist

Since graduating from the Royal College of Art in London, where Henry Moore personally funded Atkin throughout his MA sculpture course and was a significant help to Atkin at the start of his career, he has exhibited his work worldwide, e.g., the Guggenheim Museum in Italy, Museum of Modern Art Melbourne, and New Orleans Museum of Art - are three such examples of high profile venues worldwide. 

In recent years, Atkin has been invited to present keynote papers at a number of conferences worldwide including The 16th China Sculpture Forum. DIAOSU - National Sculpture Magazine of China, where he represented the Royal British Society of Sculptors, and also the Sculpture by the Sea Symposium at the Art Gallery of NSW, Sydney, Australia. In addition, he was invited to speak at the Understanding the Post-Industrial City: metropolis, urban renewal and public space, Joint PhD Seminar Faculdade de Arquitectura - Universidade Técnica de Lisboa Bauhaus - Universitat Weimar, and in 2016 at the International Sculpture Centre Conference, Pittsburgh USA.

In 2008, “Strange Meeting”, was commissioned by the Beijing Municipal Government, to celebrate the cultural arm of the Olympics “One World One Dream” exhibition in Olympic Park. This 27-ton marble and granite artwork formed part of an exhibition of twenty-six artists selected from a global application of 2600 people. 

His landmark project, “Hard Bop” in California, focuses on the regeneration of the Fillmore District of San Francisco, for which he collaborated with AXIS Architects on delivering a coherent public realm that addresses the locale’s indelible heritage as the home of West Coast Jazz. 

Since 2012, he has been the UK Representative for the groundbreaking, EU-China touring exhibition, “Inspiring Culture”, which toured nine major museums in China over 2011-2013, coinciding with the EU - China Economic Summit in Xian. 

His studio practice continues to be the vital element in the development of his work that explores notions of human identity through abstract form. His practice embraces all aspects of cross-disciplinary heritage and culture within the context of re-shaping public space.