Jean Noël was born in Montreal (Quebec) in 1940. After studying management, he attended the École des beaux-arts de Montréal from 1960 to 1963. After two and a half years, he prematurely abandoned his studies after deciding that it wouldn’t be his vocation. He moved to France in 1975. He taught sculpture at the Parsons School of Design in Paris from 1982 to 1988. While in Paris, he participated in several collective exhibits in addition to solo ones in Quebec, Ontario and France where his art would belong to several collections. Jean Noël created several pieces that integrated art to architecture in Quebec and in France. He lived in Paris while continuing to work and exhibit in Montreal.
His career launched when the art scene in Montreal was booming. At an early stage, Jean Noël chose non-representative art. Ovoid-shaped sculptures made of Plexiglas, thermoformed Plexiglas, vinyl and fabrics are deployed in a given area and are accompanied by sectioned puzzles made of painted metal. In the 70s, the artist used photography, videos and body art. His short films show a transformation of an area or a body and feature a performance.
In the 1980s, his pieces stray from sculpture’s traditional definition and enclose themes such as passage, lightness, fluidity and the border between balance and chaos. Jean Noël became more and more attracted to playing on shapes and forces. He used several different materials such as fiberglass, steel rods, undulated polyester, steel and enameled wood. His sculptures often hang from above. When they hang from a wall, they are hung with fragile very slim wires which seem to barely exist, like needles or glue spots. The artist plays on balance, imbalance and cast shadow.
”But where do these emotions, these threaded words, these pages, these books, these felled trees, these forests, these joys, these sorrows all go…? ” [Loose translation], said the artist about this piece. Two immense rod-pierced shapes float over four stories in the atrium. A green-colored shape and a metallic colored undulating shape capt the light. This sculpture evokes tension, matter, fluidity and undulation. One must see in this piece an abstract articulation of the coloured planes in the space.
The sculpture takes off from the ground to fly freely. Jean Noël’s pieces are airborne, slender and colored. They are mostly suspended or hung on walls and float, as a manifestation of the distance he took from the classical sculpture which is traditionally installed on the ground and bounded to a base. His sculptures are anything but static and fixed, and seem always ready to tremble. They suggest fragile and transitory devices.
In the words of art critic Gérard Durozoi, ”Jean Noël uses but a small amount of shapes, differently combined from one piece to another and always held together by fine metal rods, which retain a power of evocation based not on their aspect, but on their function and position. His ‘evocation’ results primarily from a form of combination, which, we sense, could prove its fertility independently of any motif. His sculptures are indeed ‘minimalists’, but in this particular sense that he decided not to explore, with different configurations, ‘primary’ structures or strictly geometrical shapes, but rather reduce the motif to a minimum to guarantee its readability.” [Loose translation]