Interview with Artist Noel Harding

“Hot Topics” blog posts come from the desk of Sam Mogelonsky, our Communications & Social Media Coordinator.

Sam sat down with Noel Harding, the commission winner, to discuss his project “Reverb.” Noel received the TORONTO 2015 Public Sculpture Commission at the GM Centre: a site-specific sculpture commission in collaboration with the City of Oshawa, in celebration of the City’s participation in the TORONTO 2015 Pan Am/Parapan Am Games.

The sculpture will be installed in the spring of 2015, adjacent to the General Motors Centre (GM Centre), the venue of the boxing and weightlifting events at next year’s TORONTO 2015 Pan Am/Parapan Am Games. Join us for the unveiling ceremony on June 1st at 7:30pm.

The GM Centre, Oshawa

The GM Centre

The RMG: How did you become an artist?

Noel Harding: I always admired artists but never thought I would become one. It was almost by default. I left high school at 18 (achieved grade 10) subsequently working for my father’s engineering firm until I decided I had to do something with my life. I went to trade school, became an architectural draftsman, then an architectural construction technologist. I was employed as a construction estimator for which I was readily fired for lack of interest.

I landed at university as a mature student studying philosophy and working in the university video studio part-time. My involvement with video expanded from running cables, to camera operator, to tv studio director and educational script writing. Without really thinking of myself as an artist, though jealous of such, I decided to create something in video and submit it to the university’s competition for art works. To my surprise, I won first prize and my resulting video works started to travel to many different countries.

In that time, video was a brand new medium – so many things had never been done before and it was a great realm to work in. However, I never like making the same thing twice. After a while, that little screen, that shape, it was just boring. I didn’t look at it like storytelling because I treated it as a visual and time full medium. From there, I moved onto installation and projection works, where you walk inside of film and I treated the projection as a sculptural surface. In doing so, I could play with time and the interaction of people.

Those works began in the 70s. Then I began working with more diverse materials: kinetics, pumps and air compressors. By this time, I was involved in galleries in New York, LA, Toronto, Vancouver, Japan, Holland, Germany and England.

Working Model, Noel Harding

Working Model, Noel Harding

RMG: What was your inspiration for your public sculpture at the GM Centre?

NH: When you approach a competition, you approach it with a pragmatic consideration, you read and see what is being requested. You are responding to a desire on behalf of the funder or organization. Which is your starting point, in a way it dictates the way you think.

I like to look at how the location’s identity is operating, where its physicality sits, where its actions of energy are, how it is populated. There is an effort to extracting the site and looking at its needs. The GM Centre is an auditorium, a place where people gather regarding numerous events of community interests. As such, the work required itself to cooperate with the public use and enhance the location. We are not taking about meaning at this point, other than how you frame your movement forward with a set of ideas.

Working Model, Noel Harding

Working Model, Noel Harding

RMG: What was your process for creating the concept of the sculpture? Can you explain the idea if the “blurbs” and how they relate to the final piece?

NH: If you look at the detailing in the work, you’ll see a number of what we call “blurbs”, like the speech bubbles one sees text in a comic book. Those are references to the audiences inside but also, to the community of Oshawa. They are not filled in, but abstract enough to allow diversity of opinions and views and, you might say, the intensity of an array of feeling – a reference to the emotions of audience.

It’s hard to say how you get an idea, you wait to see something – you’re playing. The blurb kind of kept coming after me. You try diverse elements; you model them up on paper, put them on a table and you start to either like it or dislike it. In most instances, it just doesn’t carry and you throw it away. Something evolves until a click occurs.

RMG: Please tell us more about your choice of materials for this project.

NH: I’ve been using stainless steel for my last few works. Its permanence makes it ideal for outside installations. Its ability to appear and disappear, because it is reflective, is really a great advantage. I cut a blurb out of a flat piece of paper and curved it up. Then something was starting… and then you start to see the shapes you can read in a sculpture.

There’s another element, I think of my work as making a personality rather than making a thing. What I mean by personality, is a thickness of character or meaning. As complex as a personality can be to build: humour, seriousness, interactive engagement.

Working Model, Noel Harding

Working Model, Noel Harding

RMG: Lights will animate the sculpture at night. Can you please explain how?

NH: I was on the site and I noticed that there was a hockey game going on inside but you couldn’t tell what was going on outside. It was quite a moment of inspiration. You go to the site to inspect it and realize it’s all dark at night, even though there are 1,000 people inside. How is this possible?

If I could bring the energy of what’s going on inside, outside to the sculpture, then I’ve got a very interesting way of bringing the audience into the work. The lighting then became responsive to the activities that go on inside the centre. When there is a concert, a hockey game, or other activities, the microphone picks up that sound and influences or programs the lighting outside. As a conical shape, you might say there’s an inside and an outside to the work, that shape holds light within it and reflects where the blurbs are, giving it a kind of life.

RMG: The shape of the sculpture is very inviting – what was your thought process behind it?

NH: The shape evolved as a direct result of the GM Centre being an arena. The shape mimics an arena podium. You could also suggest that it appears as a stage, or a goalie’s net or a hockey mask. It is the best response to a work when people describe different images as they are then bringing their definitions to it. It’s what is fascinating about a work in that it can be interpreted differently depending on the viewer. I like each work to link to its location. This location was rich in providing stimulus to present an idea.

The work faces the GM Centre entrance, it operates in an interesting way for the audience because normally you’d stand inside the work as a performer looking outward, but the way the mirrored surfaces of the blurbs works is if you’re outside you see yourself as the performer inside. It creates a strong interactive dynamic. I can see people wanting to play in front to see the light and their image moving.

RMG: We are very excited about this project; can you let us know what else you are working on to make it a reality?

NH: We have just completed stamped structural drawing and detailed shop drawing which in a way take longer than the actual physical creation of the work. We have ordered the shipments of steel and are within days of being able to prefabricate the components. Stainless steel has some great advantages but it is an extraordinarily labour intensive process to gain a nice even mirrored or polished finish. It is terribly consuming and requires an enormous skill base. You really have to respect the process and the people you work with.

We will be doing some pre-testing of the sound equipment before it is installed. We are beginning light programming now. As well, we are working on all the pre-production planning for the site work, which will be longer than usual, in part, because it has to be broken down into numerous components, which then need to be polished on site. We will be onsite for a month actually placing the work.

Working Model, Noel Harding

Working Model, Noel Harding

RMG: What do you enjoy most about working in the public realm?

NH: What I love about the public realm, it’s that it’s obvious. It’s such a beautifully free space to work in, you’re not arbitrated by curation in the same way.

 

Noel Harding produced video art in the 70’s, video projection and installation in the 80’s, kinetic installations and sculpture as theatre in the 90’s. His work for the last 20 years is in public art where landscape and environment are paramount. His work is an engagement in public urban realities: planning, envisioning, and mapping.  He has exhibited and lectured internationally and his work is included in collections at the Vancouver Art Gallery, the National Gallery of Canada, the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the City of Amsterdam and the Hara Museum, Tokyo. 

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Meet Heather Bulman: Communications Student

Heather Bulman is a communication student at Durham College and this winter she completes her placement with the RMG. She sat down with Sam Mogelonsky, our Communications Coordinator to discuss her experience at the RMG.

RMG: How did you get involved with volunteering at the RMG?

Heather: I began volunteering at the RMG in the summer of 2014. I knew I was interested in completing my non-profit placement here and decided volunteering would be a good way to get to know everyone beforehand.

RMG: Why were you interested in working in the museum sector?

Heather: I believe it’s important for people to experience culture in their community. By visiting galleries and museums, people can gain a better understanding of Canada’s rich cultural history. 

RMG: What has been the focus of your internship at the gallery?

Heather: My position as the Communications Intern at the RMG has allowed me to expand on my public relations education with real-world experience. I have had the opportunity to work on a variety of tasks but have been focusing my efforts on the upcoming Volunteer Youth Leaders Symposium. I am honoured to help plan and execute an event that highlights the importance of youth volunteerism in Durham Region.

RMG: What is one thing you want to share about the RMG?

Heather: The people. I am blown away by not only the kindness of every individual working in the gallery, but also by their passion for art and culture. They are always eager to share stories about their art experiences, both here at the gallery and abroad. By working alongside the gallery staff, I have become more knowledgeable and invested in Canadian art.

RMG: What is your favourite museum?

Heather: My favourite museum is the Canadian Canoe Museum, located in Peterborough, ON. As an elementary school student in Peterborough, I visited this museum multiple times. This was the first museum that enriched my cultural understanding. I remember hearing the rhythm of the indoor waterfall as I imagined myself portaging across the great Canadian landscape.

RMG: What is your first memory of art?

Heather: Although I remember creating art throughout elementary school, I also remember visiting the Whetung Ojibwa Centre with my mother and grandmother, where I was exposed to Indigenous crafts and fine arts for the first time. I immediately fell in love with the elements of nature and rich colours used in these works. Trips to the Curve Lake Reserve shaped my appreciation of Indigenous art and became a tradition in my family.

An interview with outgoing CEO Gaby Peacock

“Hot Topics” blog posts come from the desk of Sam Mogelonsky, our Communications & Social Media Coordinator.

As our CEO Gaby Peacock departs from the RMG, Sam spoke with her about her great accomplishments over the last five years. We all thank Gaby for her enthusiasm and innovations at the RMG and wish her all the best for the future!

Gaby at RMG Fridays February 2015

Gaby at RMG Fridays February 2015

The RMG: Looking back on five years at the RMG, what would you say has been the biggest change to the gallery from then until now?

Gaby Peacock: Working to change perceptions about the gallery and our greater role in the community has been a real priority for me from the beginning. We have tried very hard to insure that our internal staff culture, and public persona are accessible, inviting and inclusive. We have also somewhat redefined the role of museum as it relates to the needs of our community. No one size fits all. It has required us to listen to what people want and think about our work in terms of audience-driven programming. I also felt like we could do more in terms of unconventional partnerships and supporting other not-for-profits.. We have tried to repositioned the RMG as a leader and collaborator within the region.

RMG: What do you feel will be your lasting contribution to the RMG community?

Gaby: It is so important to be responsive to the changing needs of your audience. For now, RMG Fridays has a tremendous following, and I am proud to have been a part of its creation. It has made a huge impact on our ability to welcome new people to the gallery each month, and rerally connected us with the growing population of Millenials in Durham.

Perhaps more tangible (and lasting) contributions will be the public sculpture projects we initiated. I loved working with Doug Coupland to realize “Group Portrait 1957”, and the Meadmore in front of City Hall is very near and dear to my heart. Noel Harding’s commission for the GM Centre will not be installed before I leave-but I will be back to see it unveiled!

Gaby at RMG Fridays February 2015

Gaby at RMG Fridays February 2015 with Dr. Tim McTiernan, UOIT, Leo Groarke, Trent University, Don Lovisa, Durham College, Mayor John Henry and Dr. Colin Carrie, MP Oshawa.

RMG: You have also contributed to the community at large. Please tell us why these initiatives have been important to you?

Gaby: Being a part of the Culture Counts team for Oshawa’s first culture and heritage plan was incredibly rewarding. It was a real exercise in grassroots democracy. People came together and collectively made something really significant happen. It is one thing to get a plan funded and approved, but another to see that it has legs to get things done. I think a lot of people felt that they have seen other plans come and go, without much progress. There is a real desire from City staff and Council to make things happen and see the plan executed. That is half the battle. It was also really important to me that I was part of project that would create a tangible roadmap in alignment with the work we were doing at the RMG. It is all about creating a critical mass of cultural initiatives. Gradually, perceptions begin to shift.

coupland

Senior Curator Linda Jansma, artist Douglas Coupland and CEO Gaby Peacock in front of “Group Portrait 1957”

RMG: What will you miss most about the RMG?

Gaby: I am going to miss the incredible team of people I work with everyday. Staff, and volunteers that are committed to providing visitors with amazing interactions and experiences around art and art-making. I will also miss my community colleagues who are so invested in helping Oshawa promote its rich cultural assets and change negative stereotypes.

Interview with Gallery A artist Toni Hamel

“Hot Topics” blog posts come from the desk of Sam Mogelonsky, our Communications & Social Media Coordinator.

The RMG caught up with artist Toni Hamel. Her exhibition, The land of Id is, on view in Gallery A from March 3 to 29. She will speak about her work on Sunday 29 March from 1-3pm.

The RMG: Hi Toni! Please tell us a bit about yourself?

Toni Hamel: I am an Oshawa-based visual artist. I received my BFA from the Academy of Fine Arts of Lecce, Italy in 1983, but my career as a visual artist is still considered ’emerging’ in that my first public show took place only about six years ago, in 2009. However, in these short years I have been fortunate enough to achieve some level of recognition, having received three Ontario Arts Council grants and many other awards. More recently, one of my artworks has been purchased by the Archives of Ontario for inclusion in the Government of Ontario’s permanent art collection, certainly a great honour of which I am extremely grateful.

RMG: What materials do you work in?

TH: As an inter-disciplinary artist the material utilized in my work is varied. I am fond of vintage and recycled objects for instance, which I often use in my installations and sculptural pieces. Their inclusion is never gratuitous however, as these objects need to carry either an aesthetic or a semantic function. Thus far my practice has been focused on drawing, but painting will also be part of my oeuvre in the near future.

RMG: Why were you interested in Gallery A’s Art Lab residency? What have you made while working as an artist in residence for the month of February?

TH: Originally my intention was to create a large site-specific installation for Gallery A, and that was in fact the reason why I had originally applied for the Art Lab residency. Unfortunately scheduling oversights prevented me from utilizing Gallery A during that period of time, an event that forced me to revise my plans at the last minute. Eventually I decided to work on large-scale paintings that are part of “The land of Id” series, a body of work funded by the Ontario Arts Council. However, the three-week residency period was not at all sufficient to bring these oil paintings to completion, therefore I continued working on them while in Gallery A. It was also my intention to experiment with mechanical flip-book animations, but lack of time has prevented me from doing so.

RMG: Can you please tell us a bit about your exhibition The Land of Id, on view in Gallery A?

“The land of Id” continues my discourse on human behaviour, focusing on our misguided relationship with the natural environment. In a nutshell, It looks at issues of land exploitation and its repercussions.  For more information, please visit http://www.rmg.on.ca/gallery-a-toni-hamel.php.

RMG: What inspires you? Is there a particular artist’s work that has influenced your practice?

TH: Life inspires me – if not my own, then it’ll be that of others. I am unfortunately a news-junkie and also watch too many documentaries. I find it important for an artist to be knowledgeable and well-versed in the issues of the day, as I feel that Art must bear witness. I deal with the culture of my time, trying to raise awareness about particularly pressing topics which I feel are deserving of attention. ‘The land of Id’ is just an example of that.

There are many artists that have influenced my work or admire greatly. From contemporary figures like Victor Mann,  Adrian Ghenie and Michael Borremans, to historical figures like Velasquez and Goya. I am attracted to works that have something to say, rich in content and meaning. I’m definitely not interested in ‘pretty images’ or ‘decor art’.

 

Image: Toni Hamel

The artists acknowledges the support of the Ontario Arts Council for this exhibition.

2014 OAC logo RGB JPG (1)

Gabrielle Peacock gives keynote address at Sustainable Economies: Regional Public Art Galleries and Art-Vibrant Scenes

On Friday, 27 March, the RMG will send two team members to the Art Gallery of Windsor to speak at Sustainable Economies: Regional Public Art Galleries and Art-Vibrant Scenes, a one-day professional development exchange presented by the Ontario Association of Art Galleries (OAAG). This event gathers directors, curators, and emerging arts professionals together to explore the role and sustainability of public art gallery collections in today’s fluctuating economies.

With a focus on gallery impacts arising from the 2008 and 2009 recession in the automotive-based economies of Oshawa, Windsor and Detroit, presenters and panelists will share examples of ongoing and sustained artistic innovations undertaken during depressed and changing economies. Gabrielle Peacock, the outgoing Chief Executive Officer of the RMG, will present Making Culture Count: A Case Study in the Role of the Museum Leadership and City Revitalization.

Communications and Social Media Coordinator, Sam Mogelonsky, will present on the gallery’s monthly program, RMG Fridays. For four years, on the first Friday of the month, the gallery comes to life at night with musical performances and interactive art experiences. With continued support from the Ontario Trillium Foundation, this free program showcases local talent while providing an avenue for the RMG to expand its audiences and engage with community partners.

OAAG aims to empower Ontario public art galleries through advocacy, professional development, and network building. Attendees of OAAG’s event will have the opportunity to discuss how galleries have adapted, opportunities and barriers for artistic innovation existing in each community, as well as share regional funding and revenue strategies that can help sustain public art gallery collections. Joining Peacock as a keynote speaker is Catharine Mastin, Director, Art Gallery of Windsor, who will speak on support for arts and culture through municipal funding.

 

PHOTO CREDITS
(Left) Border Cultures part 3 (security, surveillance), 2015, installation view, Art Gallery of Windsor.
(Right) Exterior view by Michel Cullen, The Robert McLaughlin Gallery.

Volunteer Youth Leaders Symposium at the RMG

On Thursday 14 May, 2015, the RMG will host a one-day Volunteer Youth Leaders Symposium for volunteer coordinators and administrators in the Durham Region. The day will feature an innovative keynote speaker, panel discussions, workshops and networking opportunities. Register now to get involved!

Keynote Speaker: Michael Prosserman, UNITY Charity, Founder & Executive Director

Michael Prosserman (aka break dancer “Bboy Piecez”) felt the transformative impact of his performance and saw the potential to share this impact with others. He will share the exciting journey of UNITY Charity’s rapid growth and his success in achieving life-changing outcomes for youth. UNITY engages youth 10 to 18 by implementing school and community programs helping youth positively express their stress and develop skills for success. UNITY empowers youth to make better choices as leaders, mentors and positive community role models leading to more productive citizens, safer schools, and healthier communities.

Afternoon Workshops:
Workshop 1: Youth Engagement 101
The Students Commission of Canada, Centre of Excellence for Youth Engagement

Workshop 2: Program Evaluation
Darren O’Donnell, Artistic & Research Director, of Mammalia

Register Now!

Spaces are limited.

We are grateful to the Ontario Trillium Foundation for supporting this symposium.

RMG Fridays April: Emerging Superstars

We encourage you to Bring-a-Friend to our RMG Fridays April event on April 10 from 7-10m (*Note Special Date) to share in the fun! The night features performances by highly-acclaimed pop singer/songwriter Scott Helman, the 2014 nominee for the CBC Music Rising Star award and smart-pop, love-rockers So Young from London. This event runs alongside the opening of Speak Up! Youth Art Exhibition.

For more information:
Speak Up: https://www.facebook.com/speakuposhawa
Scott Helman: http://www.scotthelmanmusic.com/home/
So Young: http://soyoung.bandcamp.com/

On the first Friday of the month, join the RMG in celebrating local talent. The gallery buzzes with live musical performances, interactive art experiences, open gallery spaces, social mingling and more. Suitable for music lovers, youth, families, date nights, and culture-vultures.

Free to attend | 7-10pm | Cash Bar | All ages welcome.

Follow the twitter feed at #RMGFridays!

The RMG is grateful to the Ontario Trillium Foundation for their support of this programming.