Interview with Gallery A artist Mike Drolet

Mike Drolet has is our Gallery A ArtLab artist is residence from November 3, 2015 to January 3, 2015. Prior to his artist talk on December 6, we sat down with Mike to learn more about his work and what he has been up to during his residency.

The RMG: Hi Mike, Please tell us about yourself?

Mike Drolet: Hello RMG blog readers! I am originally from Whitby, Ontario and studied Fine Art at the University of Ottawa. In 2014 I completed a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree with a minor in psychology and a specialization in sculpture.

RMG: What materials do you work with?

MD: Although I don’t want to limit myself to a specific set of materials, generally I use materials that are traditionally sought after for construction, for example, wood, metal and concrete. I am always looking into expanding and incorporating new materials for new pieces to enable different compositions.

Art Lab

Mike Drolet, 2015

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

MD: What first got me interested in the residency was the studio space that was available to work in to work in. The lab is quite large which for my work is essential. Additionally, the Gallery A space is a massive benefit for any artist to have. As many artists may know, documentation is almost, if not as important as creating/ having artwork. Having access to Gallery A allows for the opportunity to take great photos of the new pieces created during the Art Lab and even older pieces in case you don’t have any. The Gallery A space in conjunction with the Art Lab also provides a solid foundation for an artist to show their work to the public, which as an emerging artist is invaluable.

Besides the benefits the residency provides towards my artistic practice in terms of resume and documentation building, my stay at the gallery has also posed a unique set of problems, none of which I consider to be negative in any sense. Due to the nature of my practice, I produce a lot of aromatic “pollution” (dust, vapors, sparks etc) where generally the best place to run through these processes is outside. As my time slot for the residency was during the winter months it made nearly impossible to cast concrete or wield. These obstacles have forced me to change my approach towards creating works and from what I believe resulted in a unique set of sculptures I would have not done otherwise. So I encourage artists of all disciplines to apply, accept the rules and guidelines of the gallery, and push your creative practice further in new ways.

In terms of what I’ve made during the residency, I have completed a total of seven sculptures, possibly eight as one sculpture may become a part of a larger installation of multiples. I have also had much more time to work on maquettes for future projects and past ideas. I plan on completing two more works before my end date in the space at least, that’s my goal.

art project

Mike Drolet, 2015

RMG: Can you please tell us a bit about your exhibition on view in Gallery A?

MD: The exhibition Equipoise on view now in Gallery A is essentially a synopsis of my sculptural work that focuses on Precarious Balance. I use a minimalistic approach to comment and compose structures within the genre of abstract-expressionism. Every piece installed in the show uses its own weight to maintain the planned composition. The piece entitled Moon was actually the first piece that I had done in the theme of balance. All the other pieces in the exhibition were made just before I began my residency or during.

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

MD: I can’t say that there is any one thing or person that has inspired me in terms of my artistic practice. My practice is more often the result of past experiences, research into various aspects of sculptural elements such as materiality and composition. Considering all these things applying them to two-dimensional drawings and realizing them in the third-dimension is where my ideas usually synthesize.

That being said, Chris Burden and his show “Extreme Measures” was definitely something that had some influence towards how I thought about composition and sculpture I would say. I still really enjoy his bridge works and his piece “Beam Drop, 2008.”

artwork

Mike Drolet, 2015

Grand Opening of “Reverb” Sculpture Commission at the GM Centre

Join us for the Grand Opening of Reverb at the GM Centre on 1 June at 7:30pm!

Reverb will be installed in the spring of 2015, adjacent to the General Motors Centre (GM Centre), Durham Region’s premier sports and recreation facility, and the venue of the boxing and weightlifting events at next year’s TORONTO 2015 Pan Am Games. The work was purchased with the financial support of the RMG Acquisition Fund and the Canada Council for the Arts Acquisition Assistance Program.

The sculpture is impactful, standing at 19’ high, and will become a meeting place. The curved form implies a megaphone, an amphitheater and stage, a net or goal, as Reverb reflects the activities that occur in the GM Centre. The ‘blurb’ shapes on the structure represent the fans and are positioned like a rake of seats. Projections of coloured light will be created in the sculpture when sounds inside activate lights within the steel structure. Reverb is full of meaning and references. The laser cut stainless steel references industrial production and the facets align Oshawa’s history as a port city and as an industrial capital.

In addition to celebrating the City’s participation in the TORONTO 2015 Pan Am/Parapan Am Games, the project will reflect narratives that have meaning to the community and the public space that the work will occupy. The work will also respond to the RMG’s statement of purpose: Dedicated to sharing, exploring and engaging with our communities through the continuing story of modern and contemporary Canadian art. This new work becomes the fourth sculpture commissioned by the RMG, and will be added to the RMG’s permanent collection of over 4,500 works. Recent public art commissions include Douglas Coupland’s playful Group Portrait 1957 installed on the façade of the gallery in 2011.

The commission installation is set to take place in early May, 2015 and the RMG will be posting updates about the commission as it develops.

Follow #Harding2015 and #Reverb2015 on Twitter!

About Noel Harding

As an artist, 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. In general, 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.

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. 

Noel Harding is the recipient of the TORONTO 2015 Public Sculpture Commission

The Robert McLaughlin Gallery (RMG), in collaboration with the City of Oshawa, is excited to announce that artist Noel Harding will be commissioned to build a site-specific sculpture 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), Durham Region’s premier sports and recreation facility, and the venue of the boxing and weightlifting events at next year’s TORONTO 2015 Pan Am/Parapan Am Games. The final commission consists of a $150,000 budget, which includes all fees, materials, fabrication and installation costs. The cost of the commission will be provided through the RMG’s restricted Acquisitions Endowment.

“The Selection Committee was impressed by Noel Harding’s submission that shows a real understanding and appreciation of the site and intentions of the project. The RMG is thrilled to be able to facilitate this exciting addition to our downtown,” said Gabrielle Peacock, Chief Executive Officer of The Robert McLaughlin Gallery.

As an artist, 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. In general, 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. Visit the artist’s website.

The commission installation is set to take place by May 15, 2015 and the RMG will be posting updates about the commission as it develops. Please visit http://www.rmg.on.ca/gm-sculpture-commission.php for more information.

Marman and Borins with Pavilion of the Blind

The Curious Curator: Marman and Borins

In this blog series, our Senior Curator Linda Jansma or Assistant Curator Sonya Jones email artists with questions about their creative experiences. The emails are sent after the opening of the artists’ exhibition, and strive to reveal the experience of showing works at the RMG. In this edition Linda Jansma emailed Jennifer Marman and Daniel Borins about their exhibition The Collaborationists. 
Marman and Borins at the RMG on the evening of the opening of Pavilion of the Blind

Marman & Borins at the RMG during the opening of The Collaborationists

LJ: The Collaborationists opened at the Art Gallery of Hamilton in June. How would you compare the final versions of each exhibition?

M & B: The Art Gallery of Hamilton (AGH) exhibition was a broad installation that made use of three distinct and somewhat separate rooms. At AGH, a series of ideas were linked through defined boundaries and thresholds, adjacent to each other, but not necessarily explicitly linked as one unified theme. We were interested in the associations and distance between the works and how the audience would link them. The Collaborationists is not a static exhibition though, it can exist in multiple states. We enjoy the opportunity to present a new form of the exhibition in each of its touring venues. At The Robert McLaughlin Gallery we were inspired by the grandeur of the exhibition space. We responded to this with the decision to install a large-scale singular work. Two editions of Pavilion of the Blind are positioned adjacent to each other to create the largest kinetic sculptural installation that we have produced to date.

LJ: As collaborators, how do you begin work on a concept for a piece? What are your first steps?

M & B: Early in our career it was a longer process, but as we engaged in form, kinetics, technology, and historical reference we began to make more and more connections in our work and so did our audience. Implied here is that we have established a lexicon of precedents that now make our new works easier to rationalize. So for a work like Pavilion of the Blind, we had the precedent of our piece In Sit You, and we had made a remote controlled painting 6 or 7 years ago; we felt that this was the next logical step. How could we make a large-format kinetic work that functioned as painting and sculpture? The nuts and bolts of it are really elemental: what materials to use, how to build, what motors, what computer interface? From there it was a really enjoyable problem solving set of logistics.

Marman and Borins with Pavilion of the Blind

LJ: Is there a division of labour in your joint practice? Does one person tend to do more of one thing than another?

M & B: This is a question we are often asked. In all reality some projects are handled by one of us as the lead and the other as the support, and we trade back and forth. In the case of Pavilion of the Blind there were so many suppliers and so many components – we just divided the tasks as best we could. Our collaboration is fluid.

LJ: Your practice deals with social and political issues through the lens of modernism. How does modernism help you engage with the issues that are prominent in your work? And are there particular issues that you will be dealing with in future work?

M & B: There was a sense in 20th century Modernism that we would design a better way of living. Paradoxically there was also a sense that a form of self-conscious individualism could be expressed in visual art. We suppose that in our case, we mine aspects of modernist architecture in Pavilion of the Blind, its positive influences of form and function, but also the off-putting aspects of automation and technocratic societies. So the question is: does the critique come in the form of highly self-conscious expression, or should it be a mirror? And if it is the latter, can it claim the lofty results of high modernism – its claims to presence and weightiness. Suffice to say that we think finding a basis and extrapolating from there is a worthy strategy.For example, there is a current trend in formalism first, in art as vanguard fashion, in some ideas about post-industrial cities and found objects. Maybe we see ourselves as responsive to this. Maybe we see ourselves as an individual style. Maybe this sounds confused? But what we are saying is that there are aspects in our work that attempt to reflexively address our current culture through an analysis of what has also informed it. Modernism is a good place to start. Shamanism, to us, seems like a bit of a stretch.

Visit the Marman & Borins website

LJ: Your work often includes kinetic elements that are instigated by the viewer. Do you find that visitors look at work that they’ve helped to “create” by their presence in the room, differently than static works?

M & B: We definitely have always been a bit skeptical about works of art in general. Should we or anyone trust what an art work is purporting to accomplish? Should we trust what people write or say about an artwork? So this line of thinking informs some early ideas that we had about agency. We were interested in how a viewer controls what is perceived and how an artwork does this. Definitely we think that there is a solid place for interactivity in the art world, its galleries and and museums. Institutions are placing a huge emphasis on interactivity – it is a reflection of our current information culture. And so is Pavilion of the Blind and other works of ours. Yes in this case we definitely imagine our work as connected to the viewer; as completed by the viewer. We like to imagine a viewer watching another viewer view Pavilion of the Blind.

Did you enjoy learning more about these artists? Come to The Collaborationists: A Conversation on Sunday 19 January from 2:30 – 4pm for a lively, engaging, and personal conversation between Jennifer Marman and Daniel Borins, two artists who have been collaborating for over a decade. This is a rare opportunity to sit in on a collegial conversation exploring each artist’s work, process and history. Free to attend.