Winnipeg Arts Council


Tributaries is an 11’ x 20’ mosaic, made up of over 60,000 custom ¾” ceramic tiles by Winnipeg-based artist Simon Hughes. It references a network of waterways, the human brain, a suburban development, an earlier and now destroyed public artwork, and (most obviously) a maze. 

The history of mazes as a visual element in tile mosaics goes back to Roman times. In  Tributaries, Hughes uses the maze as a way to show the process of learning and acquiring information, which is what a library is fundamentally about, despite advances in technology and delivery systems for information. Scientists have long used mazes as a way of mapping the changes of the brain itself, with its neural pathways containing various nuggets of information and past learning. 

The mosaic’s imagery also makes reference to the history of the surrounding area. The southeastern post-war suburbs of Winnipeg represented a break with the traditional planning of the city, and their streets take twists and turns rather than forming a grid, as in many older sections of the city. It is also an area bisected by a tributary, like so many neighbourhoods in this city.

The pattern and palette of the maze directly reference a tile mosaic executed by artist and U of M professor George Swinton in the 1960s for the Portage Avenue façade of the Sears store at Polo Park Shopping Centre. In Hughes's previous work, there are numerous references to the memory of small, local histories in the face of development, and here he reanimates Swinton’s work in the service of something new. 

Periodically throughout the mosaic, certain sections depict more literal, stylized imagery – icebergs, a tipi encampment, a crocus flower, a great grey owl, an evergreen forest, a river, seagulls, an ice cave, a gemstone, and Canada geese.

The role of the library is always evolving and there are many interpretations of the nature of that role. Ironically, however, what the artist intended as a non-literal metaphor can also quite easily be read as a labyrinth network of bookshelves!

Tributaries was commissioned in conjunction with development of the new Windsor Park Library. Designed by David Penner and h5a architecture, it is the first new library to be built in Winnipeg in nearly ten years and opened to the public on March 15, 2018. The artwork was celebrated at a reception with the artist on April 17, 2018.

Tributaries was recognized as an outstanding public art project by the Creative City Network's Year in Review Program.

In the Media:

Simon Hughes

Simon Hughes is a visual artist based in Winnipeg, Manitoba, whose art practice encompasses drawing, painting, video, and public art. Simon has been exhibiting in galleries, museums, film festivals, and other venues since completing a Bachelor of Fine Arts at the University of Manitoba in 1996. In 2010, he received a Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of California, Irvine. Simon has had solo exhibitions with Division Gallery in Montreal and Toronto, Lantern in Winnipeg, and with Julie Saul Gallery in New York City, and has participated in numerous group exhibitions in museums, including the Alberta Art Gallery, the Mendel, the Winnipeg Art Gallery, the National Gallery of Canada and La Maison Rouge in Paris. His work is in the collections of the WAG, the National Gallery, the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia as well as private and corporate collections across Canada and abroad.

Public Art Nearby

Visit the gallery