Sunday, 20 October 2013

This Salty Water - Definitely Not a Landscape Show

Controlled Dive by Gerald Vaandering.
Serigraph on plastic
40” X 60”
1 of 1

This past Friday I had the distinct pleasure of a gallery visit and lunch with Gerald Vaandering.  The occasion was his solo show, This Salty Water, at Christina Parker Gallery.  This is a must-see show, with only a few dates left–until October 26th, pencil it in on your calendar. 

My curiosity was sparked months ago, when Gerald Vaandering responded to the ubiquitous question, "what are you working on now?" by saying that he was hiring people, dressing them in suits and then throwing them into a swimming pool.  David Hockney's swimming pool series flashed through my mind.  They are large, visually engaging representations of the cultural icon that symbolizes luxury and indolence.  I wondered what scale Vaandering would be working in, how would he handle the question of suits, in how much detail, so and so forth.  Before long I had a list of questions and associations that was longer than my proverbial arm.

Vanndering also has a blog that you can consult:
I found this blog really useful in understanding his process of printmaking and painting.  It is interesting to follow his decision making process.  Most of the works are printed on a kind of mylar that is prepared in a manner that reminded me of Russian icon painting, which builds up from gesso.

Most of the works in the show are large scale and to Vaandering's credit he pulls it off.  The work never feels inflated.  It is a show of big ideas.  I was particularly drawn to his use of images drawn from stock market reports.  Columns of company names and figures are twisted and torqued; they assume a disorienting fluidity instead of the orderly world of control and objectivity.  The columns have a drunken quality– the phrase "ground shifting underfoot" came to my mind while I studied them.  The images are in essence a portrait of our times, how the global market has influenced our culture, as witnessed by the worldwide ripple of financial ruin that took place in 2008.  Correspondingly, this is a show that is pulled from the headlines that ring true, whether you are in Pouch Cove, Newfoundland (where Gerald Vaandering is based) or New York City, N.Y.  This is our world.  This is the new Newfoundland.

Head Above Water by Gerald Vaandering.  All images supplied by artist.
Serigraph on plastic
40” X 60”
2 of 2

The falling and swimming figures conjure up much, both as metaphor and more literal connotations.  The figures will recall for some the first stock market crash, when desperate business men leapt to their deaths from their office buildings.  While others will bring forth the 9/11 disaster with its own horrible memories. Either way, the suited male and female figures are our Everyman (woman), presenting us with a likeness of what our pervasive business culture is today.  Despite the grim reality they suggest, the images are compelling in part due to their seductive use of colour and texture and spare details.

There is so much that can be said about this show.  For example, what does this show say in contrast to Michael Snow's Walking Women series?  I could go on forever.  In closing I will say that it would be great if this show could tour and give audiences on the mainland, and both sides of the north/south border, a taste of what contemporary Newfoundland art really looks like.

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