Noel Harding at Wasted Space Art Cafe Oshawa
“It is an industrial city. It was always a city you passed through on the way to the cottage.” – Noel Harding
Noel Harding created Reverb, the stainless steel curved art piece covered in voice bubbles, situated outside the General Motors Centre in Oshawa, Ont. His inspiration for the work drew from the activities of the audience inside the Centre. He wanted to give their private voice public expression. Freedom of voice is important. So here is Noel Harding in his own voice.
On The City of Oshawa:“My first reaction was really raw, it made me a little nervous. The street activity was strong. It felt like there were some social issues. They were strong. But it proved to be quite false. It only took a few trips, that first trip, like an innocent tourist, I see it more like there’s a family atmosphere to the people who are down and out. That’s quite unique. Its not like they shouldn’t be there. It’s a rather humane city if that makes sense. It didn’t make me feel uncomfortable. I think now that I read it better."
On the idea:
“In the first place what was bothering me was I kept on trying to emblem the events or the rock stars or the hockey as a natural response. How can I universalize this? Because of hockey and we think of John McEwan’s work with the hockey sticks going up in front of the (ACC) arena in Toronto. It’s iconic. It works but it really relates to the sports activities. It kept on confounding me. Going and seeing an event at the (General Motors Centre) and it wasn’t the hockey but watching how people were in the arena and a little light went on and it said I should make this about the people and the arena. That gives you a point of view that you are beginning with and then you harness that with all sorts of notions from your history. I used to do a lot of installation work where you walk inside the work, inside a sculpture rather than outside. It’s a well-known term now but it wasn’t in the era we were working in. So certain elements come in naturally in the work because you are only the total number of particles that make up your expression. It’s a history of making things."
On the material:
“Stainless is an exquisite material just from the get-go. Its how it works. You don’t have to worry about the elements compared to other materials. It still needs maintenance but it’s certainly on the margins of practically nothing. Its just a washing once a year. There’s rigidity but there’s also a mirroring when you start to brush the finish it begins to disappear. It has this oddity about the material. It’s both heavy and strong, weighty, it has mass ala Richard Sera?? But it also has a vanishing game like a magic trick. It’s light and nothing in a way because it mirrors and disappears in the space. It’s delectable."
Robert McLaughlin Gallery curator Linda Jansma and artist Noel Harding stand before 'Reverb'.
On the voice bubble:
“The notion of the blurb came right of trying to, what is it that can I identify, universally, as being the audience. That just came by from seeing it in a weekend magazine, they had used that technique in some kind of illustration. Then it became taking it into the studio and cutting it out of a piece of paper and curving it and paying with it. Getting the angle on the metal was really important because it makes it feel like a sail or something billowing. There’s a curvature that isn’t there. There is a straight line on the underedge but you’d swear it has curvature in it. It’s just the way it’s bent. Its not actually curved. It’s a straight line. It’s an illusion and it works."
On the openings:
“Wait ‘til the sunlight hits it and it will throw shadows out into the courtyard. You won’t see it until that happens. There’s a dynamic that operates in space. I usually get sun studies done so I can see how the 3D work affects the grounds plain. It’s quite well situated to have these crescent moons on the interior, on the canopy and stretch out. I think they will be quite delightful. The lighting will start to celebrate that area at night. Frankly it’s a black hole at night, very weird situation."
On the interactivity:
"The idea for the interaction between the sound and the light came from the same night I went to the hockey game and the inspiration of wanting to deal with the audience rather than an event or a hockey player, when we came out side and looked on the plaza area there were two thousand inside but outside it was dead. It almost felt like, oh don’t sit here, it was too . . . It was unbelievable that events go on there with thousands and thousands of people but no body knows what is going on inside. That became a challenge. How do you make the two come together and the lighting came to bear. The scale affects one and it’s also an arena in some way, like a bandshell. There’s a bandshell feel so it allows in some way this little trick. You see yourself in the mirror and you turn the other way and you suddenly think here I am and I’m the rock star; either outside to the audience in the plaza and inside too. So I think it does this really nice psychological trickery, sensing the need of self. You can fake being the rock star playing inside like a karaoke of some form. It would be great if some musicians took it."
On being an artist:
“I don’t think of myself as an artist at all. I don’t identify either way. I just know as a very young creative person I had a need, a desire to live in big space, a big factory space and wanted to make things. You alos had to go into impoverished close to the line areas where there was lots of street activities of all sorts and kinds going on. That was growing up creatively. When I was young I ended up on Dundas West when it was a desert and the Junction when it was just factories in a place that nobody lived. I was the only person in the factory building living there and nobody was allowed to know. So I look at the places here (Oshawa) and it seems somewhat the same, a comfort feeling, a healthy place for creative people because why, you have enough space."