Access to Justice

Project timeframe
1 September 2016 - 1 June 2017
Research area
Fine Art
Amount awarded
$280,000.00 (CAN)
Funder ID
Law Society of Upper Canada

Project leader: John Atkin

This large-scale landmark installation artwork examines a central tenet of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (Access to Justice). Inaugurated by the Mayor of Toronto, its prime location overlooks the Law Society of Upper Canada on a major sightline linking City Hall to University Drive.

The sculpture responds to an access to justice crisis that was identified in Canada in 2013. Original research for the project was both thematic and practical. Having regard to proposals for legal reform, concepts of immigration, assimilation, and openness through sculptural metaphors of portals and doorways were investigated. From whatever angle visitors approach the sculpture, they have a vista onto the buildings that enshrine equality under the law. Canadian history, its social structures and the evolution of its constitution was central to the research. These themes are reflected in the work’s materials: Corten steel symbolizes the industrial past, colour echoes the Canadian Lakes landscape and lightreflecting stainless steel communicates viewer empowerment reflected in the artwork’s accessible composition. The absence of barriers underlines justice is open to all individuals; regardless of gender, age, or ethnicity.

The work draws on, and contributes to, the art historical research into large-scale sculptural forms that employ intersecting gateways and apertures. This included an analysis of, and response to, works from different cultures and epochs including, Inuit, China, India, Korea, Europe, Russia, Morocco and Algerian. This highlights how visual language replaces the need for explanatory written text describing the sculpture. The sculpture remains integral to Ontario’s Access to Justice celebrations, serving as a permanent symbol of the Canadian justice system. Promoted by the British Council, it has received international recognition from CODAWORX, Interalia Magazine, World Sculpture News, Sculpture Magazine and International Journal of History & Cultural Studies (Volume 4, Issue 3, 2018).