Conversation Piece: Untitled by Jordi Bonet

Check out this fantastic piece of public art at the EPL’s Mill Woods branch.

Photography Liam Mackenzie

The mural is made up of 10 cast-iron panels finished in bronze, but the first thing that strikes you is the pools of colours.

Jordi Bonet’s “Untitled” is mounted on one side of a study box inside the Edmonton Public Library’s (EPL) Mill Woods branch. The insulated box acts as an isolation booth, where people inside can have quiet reading time. And the box sits in the middle of the library, which has windows on all sides. So, light comes in from different angles, hits the mural and creates some truly unique colour effects that change as the day goes on.

When I look at the contours, cracks and crevices in the metal surface, there are reflections of yellow, blue, deep green, lime and turquoise.

The mural is made up of 10 panels, each weighing 2,000 pounds. There’s a definite topography to the piece; peaks of metal are carved by deep cuts, like a river rushing through a mountain range. And within you’ll find human shapes; heads, narrow bodies, arms – as if Nazca lines had been hacked into the art.

The piece debuted in Edmonton’s downtown Centennial Library in 1967 during the country’s 100th birthday. The library, currently under re-construction, was later renamed for former EPL chair Stanley Milner. Three years ago, Bonet’s mural got new life when it was installed in the new Mill Woods branch, after six months of painstaking restoration work.

Bonet was born in Catalonia (read: Not Spain), lost his right arm as a child and moved to Canada when he was in his early 20s. He became a vital part of the Montreal arts scene, and his work is a key part of that city’s famed Brutalist architecture that has made its Metro system so famous. His work can also be found at the University of Alberta’s Students’ Union Building.

Sadly, Bonet passed away at the young age of 47, only 12 years after finishing the EPL’s mural. He succumbed to leukemia on Christmas Day, 1979.

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