Brian Gladwell

About the Artist

Brian Gladwell was born in North Battleford, Saskatchewan and studied political science at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon from 1966 through 1970. This training, while not about art-making, prepared him to question perceived knowledge about the world and also taught him to ‘ask the good question‘, which he applies to his art practice.

Following university Gladwell moved to Fort Qu’Appelle, Saskatchewan where he worked for a man who was living his dream as a rancher. Gladwell did not want to become a rancher but he did buy into the idea of doing what he enjoyed with his life.

Gladwell wanted to be self-employed, to work creatively and to not have to return to school. So, he began repairing and refinishing furniture and taught himself carpentry. He grew into an expert craftsman and became knowledgeable about all methods and materials related to the woodwork trade. As W.P. (Wayne) Morgan states in a 1990 article about Gladwell, “[h]e studied the furniture he repaired, learned how it was put together and what were the strengths and weaknesses of a piece. He wanted to learn why something was done this way or that way, what the reasons for a particular structure were, and how these techniques affected the final design.” (Morgan 1990)

In the 1980’s Gladwell started experimenting with cardboard as a building material. He used his woodwork methods and tools to cut and aid in the construction of cardboard forms. Virginia Ebbels describes his working method: “He would laminate layers of cardboard together to achieve amazing strength and at no time did he attempt to hide the quality of the material; in fact he used the inner  textureThe quality of surface in a finished artwork; note that this can apply to painting in describing the way that the paint is applied to the canvas or other support; to sculpture in describing the way that the material used is made smooth or rough; or to video in describing the way that the light-based image is either smooth or visibly broken up into pixels.  of the cardboard for his textural patterns in the works.” (Ebbels 1987)  

In a 1990 interview Gladwell said, “I enjoy the  contrastA large difference between two things. It is a technique often used to create a focal point.  between the humble nature of the material and highly refined workmanship. Altogether, the uncommonness of the material challenges our perceptions about furniture and opens the way to a fresh approach to both  formIn its widest sense, total structure; a synthesis of all the visible aspects of that structure and of the manner in which they are united to create its distinctive character. The form of a work is what enables us to perceive it. Form also refers to an element of art that is three-dimensional (height, width, and depth) and encloses volume. For example, a triangle, which is two-dimensional, is a shape, but a pyramid, which is three-dimensional, is a form. Cubes, spheres, ovoids, pyramids, cone, and cylinders are examples of various forms. Also, all of the elements of a work of art independent of their meaning. Formal elements are primary features which are not a matter of semantic significance — including colour, dimensions, line, mass, medium, scale, shape, space, texture, value; and the principles of design under which they are placed — including balance, contrast, dominance, harmony, movement, proportion, proximity, rhythm, similarity, unity, and variety. (Artlex.com)  and the purpose of furniture.” (Morgan 1990)  While building the furniture, Gladwell can play with  designA plan, or to plan. The organization or composition of a work; the skilled arrangement of its parts. An effective design is one in which the elements of art and principles of design have been combined to achieve an overall sense of unity. Also [applied design], the production of attractive and well crafted functional objects. Subcategories of the design arts include: architecture, bonsai, fashion design, furniture design, graphic design, ikebana, industrial design, interior design, landscape architecture, stagecraft, textile design, and Web page design. (Artlex.com)  and  colourProduced by light of various wavelengths, and when light strikes an object and reflects back to the eyes. Colour is an element of art with three properties: (1) hue or tint, the colour name, e.g., red, yellow, blue, etc.: (2) intensity, the purity and strength of a colour, e.g., bright red or dull red; and (3) value, the lightness or darkness of a colour. When the spectrum is organized as a color wheel, the colours are divided into groups called primary, secondary and intermediate (or tertiary) colours; analogous and complementary, and also as warm and cool colours. Colours can be objectively described as saturated, clear, cool, warm, deep, subdued, grayed, tawny, mat, glossy, monochrome, multicolored, particolored, variegated, or polychromed. Some words used to describe colours are more subjective (subject to personal opinion or taste), such as: exciting, sweet, saccharine, brash, garish, ugly, beautiful, cute, fashionable, pretty, and sublime. Sometimes people speak of colours when they are actually refering to pigments, what they are made of (various natural or synthetic substances), their relative permanence, etc. (Artlex.com)  and create magnificent, often-playful structures that Virginia Ebbels describes as, “elegant austere.” (Ebbels 1987)

Since 1973 Gladwell has been a self-employed furniture designer and woodworker as artist-in-residence at the Neil Balkwill Centre in Regina.


Cardboard vs Wood
Craft-Art
Energy Path
How He Became a Furniture Artist
Canadian Heritage University of Regina Mackenzie Art Gallery Mendel Art Gallery Sask Learning