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Sculpture in Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie pays tribute to Ukrainian culture

Inspired by the shape of pysanky — intricately decorated Easter eggs — artist Giorgia Volpe’s Entrelacs was erected in Parc de l’Ukraine on Thursday.

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Just across the street from the imposing Saint Sophie Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral in Montreal’s Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie borough, a graceful six-foot sculpture of interlaced ribbons of smooth concrete is to be inaugurated Friday.

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Giorgia Volpe’s Entrelacs, installed Thursday just in front of the 12th Ave. entrance to the Parc de l’Ukraine, was loosely inspired by the shape of the pysanky that are so much a part of Ukrainian culture — intricately decorated Easter eggs rich with symbols.

But where pysanky are generally colourful, Volpe’s work is white; where eggs are solid, Entrelacs — the word is French for interlacing — is hollow and open to the environment. It invites people to walk around and observe that it looks different, depending on the angle from which it is viewed. It invites children to crawl in. The base on which the work is secured will be camouflaged by flowers to be planted around it, “so it will look like it is floating.

“My work dialogues with the environment,” said Volpe, a multidisciplinary artist who is a native Brazilian and has been living and working in Quebec since 1998. “I love the idea of ​​dialogue and relationship.”

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The work, the City of Montreal’s newest piece of public art, is the result of a public art competition organized by the Bureau d’art public in collaboration with the Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie borough. It pays homage to Montreal’s Ukrainian community and to a culture rich in tradition.

“Entrelacs evokes the notion of identity-related DNA and becomes a symbolic vessel unifying Ukrainian culture in Montreal,” says the Bureau d’art public in a document describing the work.

And against the backdrop of the continued fighting in Ukraine following the Russian invasion in February, it “assumes particular significance.”

The borough, home to much of Montreal’s Ukrainian community of about 43,000, made it known that the community was to be consulted and involved in the sculpture’s creation and design.

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Once the seven-member jury had chosen three finalists from among the 25 artists who had been invited to submit proposals, several Ukrainian Montrealers met with representatives of the borough, the Bureau d’art public and the artists themselves to talk about their community’s issues, values ​​and history.

At first, said Volpe, they seemed surprised that her interpretation called for the work to be hollow—and white. “But as they started to understand my practice, we started a dialogue. We understood each other — and how symbols can be used.”

Once her submission was chosen unanimously by the jury, meetings were held with the community to discuss the patterns and symbols that would adorn it. “My idea was to invite the community to write the symbols that are important for them,” said the multidisciplinary artist, who is interested “in threads that bind, in stories fueled by encounters and everyday life.”

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Creating the piece represented “a unique challenge,” said Volpe, who had not worked with the medium before. It took her, working with a team, more than a year. Total cost, underwritten by the borough, was $120,464.

The kind of concrete used in the work bends, within limits, so that, with moulds, it can be cast into complex shapes. Each ribbon in the sculpture features some of the symbols used in pysanky — engraved in a stylized form imposed by the limits of the medium. An eight-point star, for instance, symbolizes rebirth, sun and life; An oak leaf symbolizes patience, strength and longevity.

“Plus there is the symbolism of the egg itself: life and eternity: The bands are continuous, like eternity — no beginning and no end,” said Christine Kozak, one of the members of Montreal’s Ukrainian community who had a role in developing Entrelacs.

sschwartz@postmedia.com

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